Backfired: The unintentional consequences of emotional labor on organizations




Busby, Antoine D'Wayne

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Organizations want to ensure their customers have positive experiences while partaking in organizational services. One of the first employees customers interact with are lower-level service employees. To increase the likelihood of positive employee-customer interactions, organizations often turn to display rules as a mechanism for controlling the emotions employees exhibit while interacting with customers. The rationale behind this is when employees treat customers appropriately, this translates into a positive organizational image that customers will remember. A hopeful outcome is that these very customers will not only become repeat customers, but also tell other potential customers about their positive experiences. Unfortunately, all of this comes at a dire cost. This dissertation proposes a scantly studied link between emotional labor and workplace deviance via an underlying mechanism, emotional exhaustion. I suggest as employees labor to suppress their true emotions, in favor of exhibiting organizationally required emotions, this leads employees to experience exhaustion. As a result, I further suggest as employees experience prolonged periods of exhaustion, employees turn to workplace deviance as a way to mitigate the perception of exhaustion and retaliate against the source of the exhaustion (i.e. their organization). Furthermore, the practical component of this dissertation proposes two mechanisms that may minimize the likelihood of employees experiencing emotional exhaustion and, thus, turning to workplace deviance as a coping mechanism. Specifically, this dissertation proposes psychological resilience as a moderator of the relationship between emotional labor and emotional exhaustion and meaningfulness as a moderator of the relationship between emotional exhaustion and workplace deviance. Together, these intriguing findings offer a unique look into how seemingly harmless organizational demands actually negatively affects organizations. Specifically, requiring employees to engage in the emotional labor process, for the sake of a positive employee-customer interactions, actually has the opposite effect. Likewise, these findings also suggest there are steps organizations can take to minimize the strain employees experience because of the emotional labor process.


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Emotional exhaustion, Emotional labor, Meaningfulness, Psychological resilience, Workplace deviance