Linking Emotional Labor and Job Satisfaction

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When the customer service rep greets you with a warm smile, he is engaging in emotional labor (EL), or the regulation of emotions to fit the work role. While this practice can take a toll on employees and negatively affect job satisfaction, new research in the Journal of Management finds this isn’t necessarily the case. The article examines the EL–job satisfaction relationship through two different “lenses” to explain why it impacts some employees negatively and others positively:

emotional_labor_job_satisfactionOur results suggest that, by design, jobs with workplace interactions may have favorable outcomes for employees. Such jobs may be intrinsically motivating and fulfill psychological needs, especially if they are consistent with key social and/or personal identity characteristics. These findings further highlight the importance of the social context at work and support the burgeoning research on relational job design, which suggests that jobs, tasks, and projects are intertwined with workplace interactions, and these interactions are meaningful for employees. Despite these positive job attributes, tensions may occur at the interface between the worker and the job, creating various worker responses to job interactions. These responses, such as surface acting, may be related to unfavorable outcomes for some employees. Organizations and researchers might identify mechanisms and/or worker attributes that can create equilibrium conditions at the person–job interfaceJOM_v38_72ppiRGB_150pixW. In other words, adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to work design for “people work” jobs fails to account for employees’ various responses to occupational EL requirements. Organizations might consider mechanisms such as job rotation, shift work, and flexible work schedules to leverage the beneficial aspects of job interactions while avoiding the negative aspects of regulating emotions.

Click here to read “The Role of Occupational Emotional Labor Requirements on the Surface Acting–Job Satisfaction Relationship,” by Devasheesh P. Bhave of Singapore Management University and Theresa M. Glomb of the University of Minnesota, forthcoming in the Journal of Management and now available in OnlineFirst.

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