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Emotional Labour and Employees in a Face-to-Face Service Environment

4925 words (20 pages) Essay in Psychology

5/12/16 Psychology Reference this

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In many organizations there is an increase in the requirement to carry on emotional labour. Hochschild (1983) argues that these emotional demands have negative effects physically and psychologically. Management evaluations in the Bahamas focus on job satisfaction and not encompassing the employees’ psychological well being. This study measured emotional labour under the parameters of surface acting, deep acting and burnout via socio-demographics with the method of questionnaire survey. The results showed 1) significance in one of the social demographics for surface acting, 2) no significance for deep acting, and 3) all social demographics showed significance towards burnout.

Key words: Surface Acting, Deep Acting, Burnout

Emotional Labour and Employees in a Face-to-Face Service Environment


The strength of the hospitality industry is not only getting a job done, but also involves getting the work done with the correct attitude, with the correct degree of authenticity, and with the correct amount of concern for guests. Every organization in the hospitality industry expects that their employees, while interacting with customers, to exhibit certain types of emotions such as friendliness, cheerfulness, warmth, enthusiasm, or confidence.

“Tourism together with tourism-driven construction and manufacturing accounts for approximately 60% of The Bahamas’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and directly or indirectly employs half of the archipelago’s labour force. Prior to 2006, a steady growth in tourism receipts and a boom in construction of new hotels, resorts, and residences led to solid GDP growth but since the tourism receipts have begun to drop off. The global recession in 2009 took a sizeable toll on The Bahamas, resulting in a contraction in GP and a widening budget deficit. Overall growth prospects in the short run rest heavily on the fortunes of the tourism sector” (CIA-The World Factbook, 2011, para. 5).

In light of this, it is essential that the service rendered by the Bahamian people continues and remains exceptional. Because the interaction between the service provider and customer is the central part of a service experience that affects a customers’ perception of service quality, it is essential for managers or employers to control or manage employees’ behavior or emotional expressions to guarantee service quality. Being able to exercise self-control is a key component. However, it cannot be assumed that the employee is always going to be in a good mood. Situations will arise that will bring about negative emotions such as annoyance, anger etc. Imagine being told that one of your colleagues has just passed away. Immediately after learning this information, a guest needs some assistance specifically from you. Or even more so a guest has a bad attitude for whatever reason and decides to spit on you. What should you do? What reaction should you have? An employee’s emotional reaction is no longer a private experience, but a public act that is controlled by his or her employer. Rules for emotional display are developed, and training programs are mandatory.

Hochschild (1983), who was the first to hone in on the effects of emotional work on flight attendants, describes this type of conflict to be ’emotional labour’ – emotional job demands and emotional strategies necessary to control these demands. It was discovered that emotional labour weight could be classified into five requirements and one stressor. These would be the display of positive emotions, negative emotions, neutrality, sensitivity, and sympathy. The stressor, emotional dissonance, is then what is demanded when these particular emotional requirements are not met. Hochschild (1983) used the description of a drama-where work setting is an act from a movie or play, the customers/guests are the audience, and the individual employees are actors with rules governing how to interact with the customers/guests.

At first glance, it may seem that this task should not be a difficult one to perform. It has been argued that displaying positive emotions have a positive effect on the individual.

There are three acting techniques researchers have recommended that service employees carry out emotional labor using (Hochschild, 1983; Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993). The first is -surface acting- described as the altering of one’s external facade to suggest the appropriate or desired emotion-not necessarily personally felt. The second technique is -deep acting- described as a change of not only the external persona, but also the inner mind-set; done through utilizing empathy or sympathy. The final acting technique is -genuine acting- that happens when the employees’ felt emotions are harmonious with spoken emotions.

In many organizations there is an increase in the requirement to carry on emotional labour. The service industry is one where participants are expected to provide exceptional and flawless behaviour. The expectancy to compartmentalize one’s personal feelings and serve seems easy enough. Management expects that a service employee’s first and upmost responsibility is to the client and anything that comes in-between is secondary. Hochschild (1983) argues that these emotional demands have negative effects physically and psychologically. Management evaluations in the Bahamas focus on job satisfaction and not encompassing the employees’ psychological well being. The existing research conducted on emotional conflict and dissonance; adds vital information to the general body of knowledge. Notably, as the Bahamas’ number one industry is tourism, indicating a large portion of the population engages in the provision of service. There has been no study has been conducted in the Bahamas in this area.

The purpose of this study is to measure employees’ attitudes towards emotional labour. The essential assumption is that employees’ attitudes are critical factors in the formation of the professed positive or negative consequence of performing emotional labor. Particularly, at what levels are emotional labour conducted via surface acting, deep acting, and the effect that it has on service workers, and its associated burnout consequence? The hypothesis is that employees’ attitudes are vital factors in determining the apparent positive or negative outcome of performing emotional labor. It is expected that the findings of this study can contribute not only to the existing body of literature on emotional labor, but also assist managers and others in the service industry to better understand the impact of job demands on employees. It could also assist them with employing ways to assist their employees when coping with certain conflicting situations. The research objective will be addressed by the following hypotheses:

H1a: There is no relationship between gender and surface acting.

H1b: There is no relationship between gender and deep acting.

H1c: There is a relationship between gender and burnout.

H2a: There is a relationship between age and surface acting.

H2b: There is a relationship between age and deep acting.

H2c: There is a relationship between age and burnout.

H3a: There is a relationship between industry experience and surface acting.

H3b: There is no relationship between industry experience and deep acting.

H3c: There is a relationship between industry experience and burnout.

H4a: There is a relationship between department and surface acting.

H4b: There is no relationship between department and deep acting.

H4c: There is a relationship between department and burnout.

Previous studies on emotional labour placed emphasis on the service industry employee’s attitudes towards emotional labour as a collective, not specifically by this demographical assessment. The return rate on the surveys was lower than would have been preferred; however, the assessment was conducive for this study.

Review of Literature

Today’s business environment can be described as turbulent; one that has scarce resources where you are expected to do more with less (Karatepe and Aleshinoye (2008). There is intense competitive pressure and rapid rates of technological changes. One central part of the service industry is the social interaction with customers or guests. Due to the enlargement of the service industry and growing competition, the demand on emotional labour and self control is high. As with any social contact, the obligation to control one’s emotions plays a vital role (Zapf and Holz, 2006). In times past the behaviour of employees, the way they responded to employers, fellow employees and customers was not taken into account in a serious way as the work environment was a place where their personal feelings were to be left outside the workplace (Grandey, 2000). Many researchers have praised Hochschild’s 1983 study investigating the work of flight attendants, showing that a substantial part of the job was dealing with the passengers and their emotions, to which the term emotional labor is attributed to (Aleshinoye and Karatepe, 2008; Diestel and Schmidt, 2006; Lewig and Dollard, 2003; Tracy, 2005; Zapf and Holz, 2006).

Emotional labour involves diverse emotions; whether it is enhancing, faking or suppressing emotions to modify the emotional expression. Conjointly, emotions are governed in response to the display rules for the organization. The notion of emotional labour which is considered a prospective force of customers’ emotional position and subsequent valuation of service interactions, refers to the “effort, planning, and control needed to express organizationally desired emotions during interpersonal transactions” (Morris & Fieldman, 1996; Karatepe and Aleshinoye, 2008; Brotheridge (2002)). The differentiating requirements of emotional labour are (Zapf, Vogt, Seifert, Mertini, and Isic, 1999): (1) the necessity to exude positive emotions (PE), (2) the necessity to exude and handle negative emotions (NE), (3) the necessity to exude sensitivity emotions (SE), and (4) the emotional dissonance felt (ED). The literature on service work highlights the increasing importance of image so that service workers must be in-perceptively conceptualized as cultural sign vehicles. In recent years, there has been enlarged dialogue of emotions in an organizational context (Sturdy, 2003), enabled by a rising view of emotions as evaluative judgments.

An example of this can be seen in the tourism industry of the Bahamas. In the tourism industry, the hospitality product is one of service. One must be friendly, courteous and helpful. The success of this industry depends on customer satisfaction. It is unlike other industries as it is unpredictable (Kusluvan, 2003). The creation of a successful tourism product is based on a duel partnership between the country catering to the tourism and the tourist who visits that country (Dijk and Kirk, 2007). To achieve this unblemished service, employees who are in everyday face-to-face interactions with clients are required to do emotional labour. Schneider (2010) describes it to be one’s ability to adapt to change in one’s demeanor in order to achieve the best results whether success is achieved or not. It was felt that depending on the cliental, those who work in customer service should be able to adapt to the emotion that would be most effective to meet the needs of the organization (Grandey, 2000). The emotional labour offered by employees is of vital importance when the aim and goal of the employer is to provide such an experience where both the visitor and the customer would develop an appreciation not only to share with others but would have them returning again and again (Dijk and Kirk, 2007).

The appearance of the suitable emotion during face-to-face exchanges is a job requirement for many employees in the service industry. Ruz and Tudela (2010) states that one’s state of mind is an essential component in how we relate to each other. We know that if we present ourselves in a positive way we will experience positive results. However, we should be careful as there are persons who can pretend to be positive at times but in truth can display negative actions from time to time causing conflict. It is a strange phenomenon but it has been observed that the behaviour of some persons differ in the job environment as oppose to their private lives (Kusluvan, 2003).

At the interaction level, the emotional labour can be seen as a gauge of either positive or negative social relations with customers, while the conceptual level relates to the mechanisms that process the emotional work notion. The latter is more controllable and in some cases becomes an amusing experience for employees who structure emotional labour as a strategic exchange.

Dis-identification can seemingly aid emotional labour. This usually occurs in conjunction with accomplishment of one’s work when it is ambiguous (Tracy, 2005). According to Karatepe and Aleshinoye (2008) there are three modes of acting, surface acting, active deep acting and passive deep acting. Surface acting occurs when employees falsify their emotions by altering their outer conduct/performance to match the organizational display rules while private feelings continue to be unchanged. Active deep acting occurs when employees have to put forth effort to control emotions by regulating their expressive behaviors and inner feelings. Passive deep acting occurs when employees may involuntarily feel emotions needed for a particular situation.

The processes of surface acting (managed observed expressions) and deep acting (managing feelings) coincides with the working definitions of emotional labor as a process of emotional regulation, and they provide a useful way of engaging emotional labor. Ideally, employers would prefer that employees leave their problems outside the workplace. However, as human beings this is not always achieved. If there are differences in how these two processes of emotion management relate to the outcomes, suggestions can be made for organizational training and stress management programs. For the most part, employers, have in place various programs, counseling, fund raising for example, to assist employees to cope with stress. In doing so, it is hoped that employees are more likely to be efficient. Showing compassion in the workplace can be a win-win situation (Frost, Dutton, Worline and Wilson, 2000). In spite of the fact that some customers may be insolent, employers’ expectation of their employees is that they display professionalism by displaying tolerance and offering help under all circumstances (Schneider, 2010). Grandey (2000) supports this, stating that when organizational desired results are not achieved, various training programs are conducted by employers in order to destabilize those negative behavioral responses associated with various negative emotions. However, training is only one aspect to enhance behaviour in the workplace. It is important that employees respond to customers in a courteous and pleasant way no matter what the employee may be experiencing on a given day. Again, this response is not always suitable as there are some jobs where employees are expected to demonstrate a more aggressive type of response in order to achieve the desired effect (Nunan and Knox, (2005).

Yang and Chang (2008) found that emotional labour should be measured using five dimensions – emotional display rule (EDR), surface acting (SA), deep acting (DA), variety of emotions required (VER), frequency and duration of interactions (FDI). Emotional labour was measured with a slightly modified scale utilizing a 7-point Likert Scale. Particularly, the EDR was the level at which employees reported that their emotional displays were restricted by their jobs. The study also took under consideration the socio-demographic variables examined, including age, gender, employment and marital status. Grandey (2003) states that when considering ratings it is felt that the higher ratings should be accredited to the deep acting which is the display of genuine emotions as oppose to surface acting. Dijk and Kirk (2007) describe emotional display rules as rules that require employees to manipulate their emotions in order to achieve goal for a promised award such as an increment. On the other hand when they fail to meet the required goal of the organization they can very well encounter disciplinary action.

Hochschild (1983) claimed that the way persons conduct emotional labor is predisposed by an assortment of individual and situational characteristics. Seldom is emotional labor formulated as having an interior source of inconsistency, one that is thoughtful of the continuing condition of the person as opposed to being a creation of the circumstances. The individual difference approach to emotional labor involves the measurement of individual dispositions and the supposition that these measures can assist in explaining individual attitudes and performance (Staw & Ross, 1985). It can then be understood that persons can be characterized into certain proportions, that these proportions have some constancy over time, and that these dimensions are useful in predicting individual behavior across situations (Staw & Ross, 1985). It is proposed that individual characteristics influence the individuals’ performance of emotional labor through different acting mechanisms, and result in different outcomes. The basic assumption is that, persons with different dispositions evaluate the same emotional display rules differently.

A complication in providing emotional labour is increased in employees with restricted backing for power (Tracy, 2005). Zapf and Holz (2006) make reference to Hochschild’s argument that conducting emotional labour for long periods of time would overburden the service provider’s capability to show the preferred emotions. The employee would continue to smile, but the feeling would not be in it. This inconsistency is what is labeled as emotional dissonance. The kind of circumstances that end up in emotional dissonance can easily occur in service interactions. This is because the inconsistent temperament of service delivery as much depends on the situational factors involved such as the employee’s feelings on that particular day or stressful interactions with demanding or difficult customers. It is difficult, in many instances, to determine that the behaviour of individuals in terms of whether their actions are natural or programmed (Kusluvan, 2003).

Lewig and Dollard (2003), states that emotional dissonance subsequently results in depression, low self-worth, despondency and withdrawal from the job. There are times when employees are placed in situations where their emotions are tested and tried by those in administration. These experiences can be taxing on one’s health and as a result, leave them drained. In addition, employees become demoralized to the point where those they are expected to service suffer as they are unable to perform their duties in a satisfactory manner (Grandey, 2000). Karatepe and Aleshinoye (2008) noted that employees who are in frontline service jobs are vulnerable to emotional dissonance. They noted that the incongruence between felt and displayed emotions captures two modes of surface acting and passive deep acting which are at the opposite ends of a scale. It also pointed out that emotional dissonance and/or emotional exhaustion may give increase to negative job outcomes such as job performance or job dissatisfaction. Zapf and Holz (2006) further state that the reaction to emotional demands in service work is described as burnout: a syndrome that consists of depersonalization, exhaustion and reduced personal accomplishment. Because surface acting consists of faking one’s expressions; pretending to have certain feelings that do not exist. This alone is stressful and can prove to cause one to become detached from one’s true feelings and those of others. In addition it can also bring about lack of one’s personal achievement especially if the customers were not impressed (Brotheridge, 2002).

The long-run effect would lead to psychological ill heath brought about by alienating personal feelings. Lewig and Dollard (2003) further express that the felt emotions and displayed emotions experienced within dissonance can lead to dysfunctional emotional labour for a worker. Tracy (2005) describes the declaration of an elected identity elucidated emotional labour. This identity is constantly reconditioning but it is not real. Kusluvan (2003) expresses that one has to have a keen insight into the behaviour of persons as they are not always authentic. Grandey (2003) discovered that there are ways in which one can determine whether one’s emotional display is genuine or not. For example, a smile also known as a Duchenne smile by looking at which muscle around the eye is being used. However it is not clear whether this is so with a faked smile and whether they influence observers in a negative way.

Depersonalization is said to be the tendency to treat clients like objects and too change into an unsympathetic behaviour with regard to clients. Because deep acting is closer to actual genuine feelings the chances are that the expectation is that there would be a lower level of depersonalization and that one would experience more personal achievement (Brotheridge, 2002). Exhaustion measures the feeling of the burnout. While personal accomplishment includes the position of having the capability to carry out functions and skills to meet personal goals on the job. Emotional exhaustion is preempted by emotional dissonance. It has been debated that the role conflict is identical with emotional dissonance and proceeds emotional exhaustion. Emotional dissonance as a result leading to unhappiness with a job is foreseen through individuals (Ludwig and Dollard, 2003).

Zapf and Holz (2006) make it clear that the need to display negative emotions should not be misconstrued as letting out one’s personal negative emotions. Instead, the restrained expression of anger may be used to make plain that one is critically affected by something or one is taking something seriously. Lewig and Dollard (2003) found that while the display of positive or negative emotions as well as sensitivity requirements, are not necessarily stressful. However, they may become so, through emotional dissonance. Zapf and Holz (2006) state, that the explanation for the positive and negative effects of emotional labour on burnout can be divided into two levels: interaction and conceptual.

Karatepe and Aleshinoye (2008) found that negative affectivity is positively related to emotional dissonance and exhaustion and that these were consistent with the perception mechanism. They concluded that the face-to-face service providers’ emotional exhaustion, as they hypothesized, was positively related to emotional dissonance. Yang and Chang (2008) found that EDR was significantly correlated with all job satisfaction’s subscales as well as the organizational commitment’s subscale; and interestingly they found no significant relationship between VER and job satisfaction.

Lewig and Dollard (2003) discovered that when service workers are given the means by which he or she can manage effective and developing interaction, thereby providing them with a greater sense of self worth, emotional labour becomes functional. Interactions with customers are favorable due to optimism and emotional stability by introducing a barrier between them and the associated emotion. In contrast, it was pointed out that employees experiencing emotional dissonance on a continuous basis lose their scanty resource reservoir and are faced with emotional exhaustion, which gives rise to substantial costs for organizations. This was in spite of the fact that service with a smile was seen as an established job requirement during the selection of new employees in service (Karatepe and Aleshinoye, 2008). Their results also confirmed that emotional dissonance partially mediates the effect of built-in motivation on emotional exhaustion. But consistent with the COR (Conservation of Resources) theory where persons seek to acquire, maintain and preserve certain resources, employees with built-in motivation may cope with emotional dissonance, and, as a result protect themselves from emotional exhaustion. Ruz and Tudela (2010) found that persons made more errors and took a longer time completing tasks when the emotions displayed by a customer did not agree with their natural feelings.

Karatepe and Aleshinoye (2008) also found in their study that there are employees who are vulnerable to high emotional dissonance. These employees try to concentrate more on their job-related duties and responsibilities in order to protect themselves from experiencing further emotional dissonance to ensure that they perform effectively in the organization. The school of thought here is that emotional dissonance does not have any bearing on job performance. In order to maximize the skills and abilities of employees, it is imperative that employers evaluate those skills and abilities with the view of assigning employees appropriately (Bailey and McClough, 2000). Pugh (2001) emphasizes that organizations would do well to recognize and appreciate the importance of the emotions of their employees because their emotions can make or break their business. Dijk and Kirk (2007), further states that employees must be mindful of the type of environment they provide not only for the tourist that visit their establishment, but also for the persons they employ to perform as there are times when stress can get out of hand.


This study is quantitative in nature, seeking to measure service employees’ attitudes towards emotional labour, specifically, surface acting, deep acting and the consequence of burnout. The parameter of this study is limited to the hospitality industry; this section describes the sample and sample selection, instrument, procedure and analysis.

Sample & Sample Selection

A sample size calculator publically serviced by Creative Research Systems online was used to produce the sample size. The population: one hundred and sixty-five (165) employees who work at a timeshare resort, using a confidence level of 95% generated the sample size of one hundred and sixteen (116). The sampling parameters focus only on those guest-contact (face-to-face or voice-to-voice) employees who perform emotional labor on a daily basis. The guest-contact employees included in this purposed study are those who work in the Front Office, Concierge, Housekeeping, Engineering and Sales departments. Entry-level employees and middle managers were included in the sample, senior management was not.

Criteria for being a participant:

Participants must be full-time employees

Participants have to be guest-contact employees (face-to-face or voice-to-voice)


A meeting was held with the General Manager (GM) of the timeshare resort to initially introduce and seek permission to conduct this study. After which, the GM was formally presented with a copy of the research proposal and a formal letter requesting permission for the administration of the survey. Permission was granted and the managers of the various departments were notified and advised to inform their respective departments about the administration of the surveys. The surveys were personally distributed and monitored over a three (3) day period. Potential participants were approached and asked to partake in the study; consent was gained from each participant. Each employee was briefed that they could withdraw from the survey at any time. The participants’ details were anonymous and were only identifiable by gender, age, industry experience and departments.

Employees’ attitudes are critical factors in the formation of the professed positive or negative consequence of performing emotional labor. Particularly, at what levels are emotional labour conducted via surface acting, deep acting, and the effect that it has on service workers, and its associated burnout consequence? This question was addressed by the following hypotheses:

H1a: There is no relationship between gender and surface acting.

H1b: There is no relationship between gender and deep acting.

H1c: There is a relationship between gender and burnout.

H2a: There is a relationship between age and surface acting.

H2b: There is a relationship between age and deep acting.

H2c: There is a relationship between age and burnout.

H3a: There is a relationship between industry experience and surface acting.

H3b: There is no relationship between industry experience and deep acting.

H3c: There is a relationship between industry experience and burnout.

H4a: There is a relationship between department and surface acting.

H4b: There is no relationship between department and deep acting.

H4c: There is a relationship between department and burnout


A self administered survey was used to collect the data. The overall design was a survey constructed with the influence of the extensive literature review. A five point Likert scale was used with the options of “Always” (5) to “Never” (1) accompanied each question. There were no verbal labels for scale points 2 through 4; this indicated the equal interval of one between them within the range 5 and 1. Emotional labour was measured by Q6, Q7, and Q11; surface acting was measured by Q8, Q9, Q11 and Q12. Deep acting was measured by Q13, Q14 and Q15, and burnout was measured by Q16, Q17 and Q18. [1] 

With the use of a convenient employee sample approach to collect data, there were some constraints in terms of this study’s sample requirements as 116 surveys were attempted, only 64 surveys were adequately completed and admissible for analysis.

The data was then analyzed was carried out in each socio demographic (gender, age, industry experience and department) using the t-test and single factor ANOVA analysis. The t-test was carried out to compare the means of each participant for either questionnaire to check the questionnaire was reliable over time. When multiple t-tests are conducted a significance problem develops and reduces validity. The ANOVA analysis overcomes this problem by detecting the differences as a whole.

Findings and Analysis

The demographics of the study sample indicated that 45.31% of the respondents were female and 54.69% were male. All of the respondents had industry experience of at least 1 year, and most of them had more than ten years experience (39.06%). Table 1 shows the descriptive analysis means, standard deviations, variances and skewedness of variables used in this study.

Table 1

Means, Standard Deviations, Variances, & Skewedness






Emotional Labor




Surface Acting




Deep Acting









The total sample (n=64) averaged the experienced of emotional labour at 3.99 (SD=1.35), surface acting at 3.61 (SD=1.55), deep acting at 3.50 (SD=1.40) and burnout at 2.90 (SD=1.53); each mean out of a possible 5. This shows that the majority of the responses were close to the respective means.

Individual T tests were used to analyze the differences of surface acting, deep acting and burnout amongst the demographics. The means from the total sample for SA=3.17, DA=3.3

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