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Work-family interference, emotional labor and burnout

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Abstract

Purpose The purpose of the current study is to examine the relationship between emotional display rules/job focused labor, work‐family interference (WFI) and burnout among a sample of workers in a Dutch governmental organization. Design/methodology/approach The research is a cross‐sectional study of 174 workers from a Dutch governmental organization. Findings Emotional display rules and job‐focused labor were related to burnout and psychosomatic complaints. More specifically, the need to hide negative emotions and engage in surface acting was related to negative outcomes. In addition, WFI partially mediated the relationship between the hiding of negative emotion/surface acting and burnout/psychosomatic complaints. Research limitations/implications The present study is cross‐sectional and thus the postulated relationships cannot be interpreted causally. Practical implications In terms of training and/or interventions, there is a need for the worksite to provide structured opportunities for employees to decompress from the emotional demanding aspects of their jobs. Originality/value Emotional labor has been rarely examined as an antecedent of WFI. In addition, while emotional labor has been studied with individuals in the service sector, it has been rarely examined among individuals whose jobs are highly ceremonial in nature.
Work-family interference,
emotional labor and burnout
Anthony J. Montgomery
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland-Medical University of Bahrain,
Adliya, Bahrain
Efharis Panagopolou
Medical School of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece, and
Martijn de Wildt and Ellis Meenks
Qidos, Doorn, The Netherlands
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of the current study is to examine the relationship between emotional
display rules/job focused labor, work-family interference (WFI) and burnout among a sample of
workers in a Dutch governmental organization.
Design/methodology/approach The research is a cross-sectional study of 174 workers from a
Dutch governmental organization.
Findings Emotional display rules and job-focused labor were related to burnout and
psychosomatic complaints. More specifically, the need to hide negative emotions and engage in
surface acting was related to negative outcomes. In addition, WFI partially mediated the relationship
between the hiding of negative emotion/surface acting and burnout/psychosomatic complaints.
Research limitations/implications The present study is cross-sectional and thus the postulated
relationships cannot be interpreted causally.
Practical implications In terms of training and/or interventions, there is a need for the worksite
to provide structured opportunities for employees to decompress from the emotional demanding
aspects of their jobs.
Originality/value Emotional labor has been rarely examined as an antecedent of WFI. In addition,
while emotional labor has been studied with individuals in the service sector, it has been rarely
examined among individuals whose jobs are highly ceremonial in nature.
Keywords Stress, Government departments, The Netherlands
Paper type Research paper
Although the role of emotional experiences in our physical and psychosocial well-being
has long been recognized it has only recently received consideration within the broader
framework of organizational behavior (Brief and Weiss, 2002; Barsade et al. , 2003). An
area that is receiving increased research attention is emotional labor, a construct first
defined by Hochschild (1983, p. 7) as the “management of feeling to create a publicly
observable facial and bodily display”. To date, the issue of emotional labor has been
studied both qualitatively (James, 1989; Rafaeli and Sutton, 1990; Stenross and
Kleinman, 1989; Sutton, 1991; Tolich, 1993) and quantitatively (Brotheridge and
Grandey, 2002; Brotheridge and Lee, 1998; Mann, 1999; Morris and Feldman, 1996;
Wharton, 1993). Indeed, a recent quantitative review of emotional labor (Bono and Vey,
2004) indicates that it is associated with poor physical and psychological health. In
regard to outcomes, Bono and Vey (2004) review 87 independent samples in their
analyses, but none of the reviewed research specifically links emotional labor and
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/0268-3946.htm
JMP
21,1
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Received February 2005
Revised October 2005
Revised October 2005
Accepted October 2005
Journal of Managerial Psychology
Vol. 21 No. 1, 2006
pp. 36-51
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0268-3946
DOI 10.1108/02683940610643206
work-family interference (WFI).. To date, the link between the two issues has been
rarely studied (with the exception of Montgomery et al., 2005; Wharton and Erickson,
1995; Wharton, 1999).
The link between emotional labor and WFI
WFI is experienced when pressures from the work and family roles are mutually
incompatible, such that participation in one role makes it difficult to participate in the
other (Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985). Studies of work-family relations have identified a
range of both objective and subjective demands associated with WFI (Geurts and
Demerouti, 2003), but little is known about the management of emotion and their
consequences for work-family linkages (Wharton and Erickson, 1995). Indeed,
according to Wharton and Erickson (1995), WFI should be highest when work and
family both require high degrees of emotion management and are governed by
dissimilar display norms. The link between emotional labor and WFI has been
demonstrated most recently by Montgomery et al. (2005), who found that emotional
labor, as measured by surface acting at work, was positively related to WFI among
doctors, and surface acting at home was positively related to family-work interference
among nurses. Additionally, Smith and Kleinman (1989), in a qualitative study of
medical students, found that medical training created as many problems as new
meanings for the body and for body contact that “go home with them at night” (Smith
and Kleinman, 1989, p.65).
There is good reason to believe that for employees whose work particularly involves
emotional labor, the need to adhere to job-mandated emotional display rules will
exacerbate their feelings of WFI. For example, Schulz et al. (2004), in a daily diary
study of couples, demonstrated an interesting example of emotional spill-over, in that
negative emotional arousal at work predicted angrier marital behavior for women and
more withdrawn behavior from men. Additionally, Montgomery et al. (2003), in a
sample of Dutch newspaper managers, found emotional job demands to be the most
significant predictor of both WFI and burnout in comparison with both quantitative
and mental job demands. So, while there is a considerable amount of evidence
identifying job demands as an antecedent of WFI (e.g. Aryee, 1992; Geurts et al., 1999;
Voydanoff, 1988; Wallace, 1999), there is little research evaluating emotional
labor/display rules as antecedent of WFI (with the exception of Montgomery et al.,
2005). The present study is consistent with a recent review of the field that calls for
researchers to identify more specific antecedents of WFI (Geurts and Demerouti, 2003).
Theoretical background
Grandey (2000) provides a comprehensive review of the theories underlying emotional
labor, and defines emotional labor as the process of managing both the experience and
expression of feelings to support or achieve organizational goals. In terms of linking
emotional labor to burnout or psychosomatic complaints, emotional labor can be
conceptualised within the rubric of theories on emotional inhibition and emotional
repression. Several studies have shown that inhibition of emotions is associated with
increased physiological arousal, which if it becomes chronic can have an adverse effect
on health and well being (Gross and Levenson, 1997; Panagopoulou et al., 2002). Based
on this research paradigm, hostility and anger suppression have been related to
essential hypertension and coronary heart disease (Redford and Barefoot, 1988;
Work-family
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Weidner et al., 1989). Empirical evidence has related inhibition of emotions to cancer
progression (Temoshok, 1985; Temoshok et al., 1985) and to reduced immune function
(Schwartz and Kline, 1995). Additionally, the regulation of emotion for social
interaction can lower behavioural activity, but has been found to increase autonomic
nervous system activity (Gross, 1998a; Pennebaker, 1985).
So, the continued management of emotions for social situations can be toxic. Gross
(1998a, b) has proposed a process model of emotion regulation, whereby emotional
regulation can occur at two points in the process; antecedent-focused and
response-focused. According to Grandey (2000), these processes correspond with the
emotional labor concepts of deep acting and surface acting (employee-focused
emotional labor), respectively. In this conceptualization, deep acting refers to changing
the focus of personal thoughts and changing appraisals, and surface acting is
concerned with modifying expression. Congruently, job-focused emotional labor or
display rules such as displaying positive emotions and hiding negative emotions are
postulated as processes of emotional control that reduce the feelings of emotional
autonomy from the employee.
The present study will examine the direct relationship between emotional labor and
burnout. In this sense, emotional labor is postulated as a stressor in this study and this
is consistent with the research by Brotheridge and Grandey (2002), who argue that
employee-focused emotional labor and display rules are stressful because they create
the need to manage emotional states.
Emotional labor as a predictor of burnout
Originally, burnout was measured in the human services (for reviews see Schaufeli and
Enzmann, 1998), but recently a general measure has been developed to access burnout
outside the human services: the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey (MBI-GS).
Accordingly, burnout is viewed as a syndrome of exhaustion, cynicism and decreases
in professional efficacy. Burnout, referring to the draining of energy and resources
caused by chronic job stress is considered a work-related indicator of psychological
health (Schaufeli and Enzmann, 1998).
The common explanation of burnout suggests that it is the frequency or quantity of
interactions with clients/customers that contributes to role overload and burnout
(Cordes and Dougherty, 1993), but such interactions can also involve the need for
employees to regulate their emotions in a mandated way (Rafaeli and Sutton, 1989). A
recent meta-analysis examining the relationship between emotional labor and burnout
(Bono and Vey, 2004), indicated significant associations with both emotional
exhaustion (weighted mean correlation ¼ 0:30) and depersonalization (weighted mean
correlation ¼ 0:23). This need for emotional displays to be regulated is an important
component of employees who work in the Dutch Government department being
studied, where a high level of formality needs to be maintained at all times. The
employees in the present study are in constant contact with high-ranking government
officials, and their job is characterised by the need to perform ceremonial tasks and
observe strict behavioural codes on a daily basis. The fact that the present sample
involves employees whose job is almost entirely ceremonial means that they represent
a unique sample to be studied.
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Display rules and emotional-focused labor
Hochschild’s (1983) view that display rules are inherently stressful is not consistently
found among the literature. For example, Best et al. (1997) did find a relationship
between display rules and burnout, but not Brotheridge and Grandey (2002).
Furthermore, the qualitative work of Tolich (1993) indicates that while emotional labor
can be tiring, it can also be rewarding. The conflicting finding prompted us to also
include a secondary outcome in the research. A review of the literature indicated that in
addition to burnout, researchers have found that the requirement to express positive
emotions and hide negative emotions is related to the reporting of physical symptoms
(Schaubroeck and Jones, 2000; Zapf et al., 1999).
H1a. Perceived emotional display rules relate positively with burnout.
H1b. Perceived emotional display rules relate positively with psychosomatic
complaints.
Unlike display rules, the evidence for surface acting is more conclusive. Surface acting,
the process whereby employees modify and control their emotional expressions, is
related to stress outcomes (Brotheridge, 1999; Brotheridge and Lee, 1998; Erickson and
Wharton, 1997; Pugliesi, 1999; Pugliesi and Shook, 1997). Thus we expect, surface
acting to relate to both exhaustion and cynicism. Deep acting, the process of controlling
internal thoughts and feelings to meet the mandated display rules, has been found to be
related to a greater sense of personal efficacy at work (Brotheridge and Lee, 1998). This
finding was consistent with the view of Hochschild (1979, 1983) that successful deep
acting may be experienced as positive, if the behavior is perceived as effective.
Therefore, in the present study, we replicate the hypotheses of Brotheridge and
Grandey (2002) that deep acting will not be related to the exhaustion component of
burnout, but will be related to depersonalization (cynicism in the present study).
H2a. Surface acting relates positively to exhaustion.
H2b. Surface acting relates positively, and deep acting negatively to cynicism.
H2c. Surface acting relates positively to psychosomatic complaints.
H2d. Deep acting relates positively to psychosomatic complaints.
In the present study, we restrict ourselves to the exhaustion and cynicism dimensions
of burnout. These two dimensions are generally considered as the “core of burnout”
(Demerouti et al., 2001; Green et al., 1991), whereas professional efficacy reflects a
personality characteristic rather than a genuine burnout-component (Cordes and
Dougherty, 1993; Shirom, 1989). Empirically, this is reflected by the relatively low
correlation of professional efficacy with both of the other burnout dimensions (Lee and
Ashforth, 1996) and by the fact that cynicism seems to develop in response to
exhaustion, whereas professional efficacy seems to develop independently and in
parallel (Leiter, 1993).
WFI as a mediator
In general, a given variable is said to function as a mediator to the extent that it
accounts for the relationship between the predictor and criterion variables. According
to Baron and Kenny (1986), a variable functions as mediator when its inclusion in an
Work-family
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analysis results in a significant reduction in the relationship between the independent
and outcome variable. Theoretically, the definition of WHI/HWI implies mediation, as
there will be no WHI when there are no demands at work. Conceptually, WHI fits the
characterisation of a response variable as suggested by Holmbeck (1997). In essence,
variables such as WFI cannot exist in isolation. One cannot experience WFI if there are
no job demands in the first place.
In general, the role of WFI as a mediator has been suggested by many studies
(Frone et al., 1992; Geurts et al., 1999; Kinnunen and Mauno, 1998; Montgomery et al.,
2003, Parasuraman et al., 1996; Stephens et al., 1997). However, the link between
emotions, WFI and burnout has not been clearly indicated to date. Such a situation can
be explained somewhat by the fact that while there is broad acceptance that employers
have the right to ask employees to perform physical behaviors or engage in cognitive
activities, emotional behavior might be outside what employers can reasonably
demand (Briner and Totterdell, 2002). Therefore, it seems more likely that emotional
demands will spillover from work to family. Empirically, this is indicated in the work
of Schulz et al. (2004), which demonstrated negative emotional spillover on a daily
basis. Consistently, Maslach (1982), pays special attention to making the transition
from work to home by introducing the notion of “decompression”. Maslach argues that
people working in an emotional and demanding environment need to “decompress”
before moving into the normal pressure of their private life. Additionally, Grandey
(2000) views emotional labor and display rules as a proximal predictor of stress, and
this is consistent with the idea that people bring the emotional stress from work to
home. Additionally, the idea that WFI may serve as a mediator between emotional
labor and burnout is indicated by the study of Wharton and Erickson (1995), who
found that women’s well-being on the job was threatened more by their involvement in
family emotion work than by their actual performance of emotional labor.
In the present research, it follows logically that WFI is an important variable that
mediates the ability of individuals to “decompress” from the work domain to the home
domain.
H3a. WFI will mediate the relationship between showing positive emotions and
burnout/psychosomatic complaints.
H3b. WFI will mediate the relationship between hiding negative emotions and
burnout/psychosomatic complaints.
H3c. WFI will mediate the relationship between surface acting and
burnout/psychosomatic complaints.
H3d. WFI will mediate the relationship between emotion deep acting and
cynicism/psychosomatic complaints.
All the afore-mentioned analyses were carried controlling for sex, age and having
children. Traditionally, no systematic differences have been found with regard to WFI
and sex (Geurts and Demerouti, 2003), but there is a need to control for demographic
variables such as sex and age with regard to burnout and psychosomatic complaints.
Finally, controlling for a more structural variable such as the presence of children
allows us to evaluate whether adds WFI any variance to the prediction of both burnout
and psychosomatic compliants, beyond the need to attend to parenting demands.
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Method
Participants and procedures
The study sample consisted of employees from the Dutch Governmental Organization.
A total of 500 employees were contacted to participate in this study. 174 employees
returned completed questionnaires. Given the nature of WFI, only employees who lived
with someone and or had children living at home were included in the study (N ¼ 155,
response rate ¼31 percent). This compares favourably with the average response rate
for published research in the managerial and behavioural sciences (55.6 percent overall,
36.1 percent for studies concerning top managers or representatives, see Baruch, 1999
for a review). Participants ranged in age from 22 to 64 years of age (M ¼ 44, SD ¼ 9:9),
53 percent were men. The majority of people (83 percent) lived with a partner, and 47
percent of people had a supervisory position. A total of 63 percent of respondents
reported having a partner with a paid function and 50 percent of the respondents had
children living at home. No statistical differences were found between men and women
with regard to any of the study variables, even when respondents with working
spouses were compared with respondents without working spouses. Confidentiality
prevented direct comparison between the sample age and gender breakdown against
the total sample to assess demographic differences between responders and
non-responders. However, the organization being studied carried out the
afore-mentioned analysis and concluded that no statistically significant differences
existed.
Measures
Work-family interference (WFI). WFI was measured using the scale recommended by
the Sloan Work-Family Researchers Electronic Network (MacDermid, 2000). The WFI
scale is a nine-item work-home interference measure developed by virtual think tank
comprising recognised experts in the field of work/life. The items in the scale represent
a synopsis of the best published scales in the field, such as the scales of Netermeyer
et al. (1996) and Gutek et al. (1991). All items are scored on a five-point frequency scale
ranging from “1” (never) to “5”(always). The scale has been used in previous research
with Greek health care professionals (Montgomery et al., 2005; a ¼ 0:90 for both 180
doctors and 84 nurses). In the present study, internal consistency was good (a ¼ 0:89).
Burnout. The Dutch version of the Maslach Burnout Inventory: General Survey
(MBI-GS) was used to assess burnout (Schaufeli et al., 1996). Two sub-scales of the
MBI-GS were assessed: Exhaustion (five items;, e.g. “I feel used up at the end of the
workday”, a ¼ 0:87), and Cynicism (four items;, e.g. “I have become less enthusiastic
about my work”, a ¼ 0:79). All items are scored on a seven-point frequency rating
scale ranging from “0” (never) to “6” (daily). High scores on the exhaustion and
cynicism sub-scales are indicative of burnout.
Psychosomatic health. Psychosomatic health complaints were measured with a
Dutch questionnaire on subjective health (VOEG: Vragenlijst Onderzoek Ervaren
Gezondheid (Questionnaire on Experienced Health)) developed by Dirken (1969). In this
study, the 13-item version was used (Jansen and Sikkel, 1981), explaining 95 percent of
the variance in the 21-item version. All items were scored on a four-point scale ranging
from “1” (seldom or never) to “4” (often). The VOEG consists of items asking whether
one suffers from a range of psychosomatic complaints, such as headaches, backache,
an upset stomach, fatigue, dizziness, and pain in the chest or heart area (a ¼ 0:84). The
Work-family
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41
13-item VOEG is used by the Dutch census office for monitoring psychosomatic health
in the Dutch population.
Job focused emotional labor: perceived display rules.TheEmotionWork
Requirements Scale (Best et al., 1997), a five-point scale (1 ¼ not at all, 5 ¼ always
required), tapped the level to which employees reported that their emotional displays
were controlled by their jobs. Items ask the extent to which the employee is required to
show (or hide) emotion in order to be effective on the job. These items form two factors
(Grandey, 1998; Jones and Best, 1995), which taps the requirement to display positive
emotions (four items, a ¼ 0:78) and hide negative emotions (two items, a ¼ 0:54). The
alpha coefficient for the second scale was poor, but it was used and calculated on
theoretical grounds.
Employee-focused emotional labor. Items measuring surface and deep acting came
from the Emotional Labor Scale (Brotheridge and Lee, 1998; Brotheridge and Grandey,
2002). These ideas tapped the ideas of regulating emotions by hiding feelings, faking
feelings, and modifying feelings as part of the work role. Three items measures surface
acting (sample item: “Resist expressing my true feelings”) and three items measured
deep acting (sample item: “Make an effort to actually feel the emotions that I need to
display to others”). Items were scored on a five-point scale (1 ¼ not at all, 5 ¼ always
required) and alpha’s were appropriate (a ¼ 0:74, a ¼ 0:90, respectively).
Results
Confirmatory factor analyses and analysis strategy
As a prerequisite to addressing the central hypotheses in this study, we examined the
factor structures of the WFI and emotional labor scales using confirmatory factor
analysis. To examine the appropriateness of computing uni-dimensional scores for
each of the major constructs included in the study, each scale was submitted to a
principal components analysis (results can be obtained from the first author).
Examination of both the number of eigenvalues greater than 1 and factor loadings
supported a decision to treat the hypothesized scales as postulated.
Descriptive statistics
Table I provides the means, standard deviations and correlation coefficients of the
study variables. As expected, WFI is positively correlated with exhaustion (r ¼ 0:64,
Variable Mean SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 WFI 1.90 0.63
2 Surface acting 2.68 0.69 0.27
*
3 Deep acting 2.37 0.89 0.10 0.26
*
4 Display rules: show positive 2.98 0.64 0.29
*
0.41
*
0.46
*
5 Display rules: hide negative 2.09 0.60 0.26
*
0.53
*
0.29
*
0.57
*
6 Exhaustion 2.78 1.21 0.64
*
0.28
*
0.09 0.18
**
0.38
*
7 Cynicism 2.44 1.01 0.32
*
0.37
*
0.15 0.11 0.36
*
0.62
*
8 Psychosomatic complaints 1.57 0.39 0.51
*
0.33
*
0.07 0.17
**
0.29
*
0.61
*
0.53
**
Notes:
*
p , 0:01,
**
p , 0:05
Table I.
Means, standard
deviations and
correlations
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p , 0:01), cynicism (r ¼ 0:32, p , 0:01) and psychosomatic complaints (r ¼ 0:51,
p , 0:01). The four emotional labor variables were related (r # 0:26 $ 0:57, p , 0:01).
H1. Emotional display rules
H1a and H1b proposed relationships between emotional display rules and burnout and
psychosomatic complaints. Table I provides the zero-order correlations. With regard to
burnout, the display rule to hide negative emotions correlated significantly with
exhaustion (r ¼ 0:38, p , 0:01) and cynicism (r ¼ 0:36, p , 0:01), while the display
rule to show positive emotions was significantly related to exhaustion (r ¼ 0:18,
p , 0:05), but not cynicism. With regard to psychosomatic complaints, both hiding
negative emotions (r ¼ 0:29, p , 0: 01) and showing positive emotions (r ¼ 0:17,
p , 0:05) were related.
H2. Emotion focused labor
Table I provides the zero-order correlations. With regard to the second set of
hypotheses, only H2a and H2c were supported. Surface acting was significantly
related to exhaustion (r ¼ 0:28, p , 0:01), cynicism (r ¼ 0: 37, p , 0:01) and
psychosomatic complaints (r ¼ 0:33, p , 0:01). H2b and H2d were not supported.
H3. WFI as a mediator
Table II shows the results of the mediation analyses, carried out in line with the
methodology suggested by Baron and Kenny (1986). Accordingly, a prerequisite for
mediation is that the predictor, mediator and dependant variables must be significantly
related. Mediation is demonstrated by a reduction in the impact of the predictor on the
dependant measure after controlling for the mediator (see column
b
t
in Table II). In
addition, the statistical significance of the mediation was calculated using the Sobel
Test (Preacher and Leonardelli, 2001).
Sex, age and having children have been entered as control variables. Using the
methodology recommended by Eckenrode et al. (1995) reduction of the coefficient to
Exhaustion Cynicism
Psychosomatic
complaints
Step 1 Step 2 Step 1 Step 2 Step 1 Step 2
Variable
b
i
b
t
b
i
b
t
b
i
b
t
Sex (male ¼ 1, female ¼ 0) 0.13 0.11 2 0.05 2 0.06 0.08 0.07
Age 0.07 0.13 0.10 0.13 0.11 0.16
Having children (1 ¼ yes, 0 ¼ no) 2 0.05 2 0.08 2 0.05 2 0.07 2 0.11 2 0.13
Surface acting 0.12 0.02 0.27
*
0.22
*
0.29
*
0.19
*
Deep acting 0.00 0.03 0.08 0.08 2 0.04 2 0.02
Display: show positive 2 0.09 2 0.21 2 0.19 2 0.24 0.00 2 0.10
Display: hide negative 0.35
*
0.32
*
0.31
*
0.29
**
0.15 0.13
WFI 0.61
*
0.28
*
0.49
*
R
2
0.13 0.47 0.19 0.26 0.13 0.35
R
2
Change 0.34 0.07 0.22
F Change 92.06
*
14.35
*
50.66
*
Notes:
*
p , 0:01;
**
p , 0:05;
b
i
, initial beta weight when first entered;
b
t
, final beta weight after
WFI entered
Table II.
Mediational analysis of
WFI, between emotional
labor and
burnout/psychosomatic
complaints (N ¼ 155)
Work-family
interference
43
zero equals full mediation and reduction of the coefficient is equivalent to partial
mediation. This is consistent with the view of Baron and Kenny (1986) who suggest
that as most areas of psychology have multiple causes, a more realistic goal is to seek
mediators that significantly reduce the relationship between the predictor and
dependant measure.
No support was found for H3a. With regard to H3b, Table II indicates that WFI
partially mediated the relationship between hiding negative emotions and exhaustion
(from
b
¼ 0:35 to
b
¼ 0: 32, Sobel test, z ¼ 3:01, p , 0:01), and the relationship
between hiding negative emotions and cynicism (from
b
¼ 0:31 to
b
¼ 0:29, Sobel test,
z ¼ 2:28, p , 0:01). For H3c, WFI was found to partially mediate between surface
acting and both cynicism (from
b
¼ 0:27 to
b
¼ 0: 22, Sobel test, z ¼ 2:33, p , 0:05)
and psychosomatic complaints (from
b
¼ 0:29 to
b
¼ 0: 19, Sobel test, z ¼ 3:02,
p , 0:01). No support was found for H3d.
Discussion
The current research made the following contributions:
.
it expanded on our knowledge of the relationship between emotional labor, WFI
and burnout;
.
it examined the mediational role of WFI between emotional labor and
burnout/psychosomatic complaints; and
.
it provided data on a rarely studied phenomena within governmental workers.
In terms of the first hypothesis, the need for employees to hide negative emotions was
consistently related to all three outcomes. The results in the present study were in
contradiction to the Brotheridge and Grandey (2002) study, which found that the
hiding of negative emotions was only related to the personal accomplishment
dimension of the MBI. This difference in findings may be a reflection of the different
samples studied, with the Brotheridge and Grandey (2002) focusing on a variety of
different occupations and the present study looking at “ceremonial” workers, who
operate in a highly idiosyncratic and highly formalized environment. Additionally, in
the present study, showing positive emotions was related to exhaustion and
psychosomatic complaints, but the correlations were weak. Taking these results
together indicates that the need to regulate the display of emotions was most probably
experienced at a proximal level.
In terms of the second hypothesis, surface acting was significantly related to all
three outcomes. Such a result is consistent with the research of Brotheridge and
Grandey (2002), who found surface acting significantly related to emotional
exhaustion. Additionally, this result is consistent with the idea that suppressing
anger can be costly to physiological and immune functioning (Gross and Levenson,
1997; Pennebaker and Beall, 1986). The consistent relationship with all three outcomes
confirms that idea that surface acting represents a way of detaching from others while
at work. In contrast, deep acting was not related to any of the outcomes. This is
consistent with work of Brotheridge and Grandey (2002), who did find that surface
acting was related to emotional exhaustion beyond deep acting. In terms of the
occupational group studied, this result makes sense as compared to other occupational
groups (e.g. police officers) the need to use impression management in a formal setting
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(e.g. government offices) is more important than the need to internalize emotionally
difficult situations (e.g. a police officer who needs to internalize difficult interactions).
Limited support was found for the third hypothesis. This result is consistent with
the considerable body of literature denoting the role of WFI as a mediator (see Geurts
and Demerouti, 2003 for a review). The mediating role found for both surface acting
and hiding negative emotions provides a new perspective regarding the way that work
can spill-over into non-work. This suggests that for employees inhibited emotional
states are more likely to be decompressed within the family environment, which
presents more opportunities for emotional expression, relative to their workplace. This
is consistent with recent research that has found a positive association between
emotional labor and WFI (Montgomery et al., 2005), and with the work of Wharton and
Erickson (1995), who suggest that emotional demanding environments (at both work
and home) contribute to WFI.
Emotional labor as a demand
Until recently, most studies concerning the relationship between job demands and job
stress have focused on quantitative demands (e.g. workload). One of the most
prominent models in this area, Karasek’s (1979) demand-control model has received
critical attention with regard to the possible multifaceted nature of job demands.
Different types of job demands have been rarely examined within the framework of the
model (with the exception of some examples; De Jonge et al., 1999; So
¨
derfeldt et al.,
1996, 1997). The aforementioned evidence is consistent with recent reviews in the WFI
literature that has called on researchers to identify more specific antecedents of WFI
(Geurts and Demerouti, 2003). The need to evaluate a range of demands is prompted by
the fact that the nature of work is changing and some professions have a specifically
emotional component. Such a contention is supported by researchers who have
identified three types of emotional displays required by jobs: integrative,
differentiating and masking (Jones and Best, 1995; Wharton and Erickson, 1993).
Such work prompts us to more carefully consider emotional labor as a significant job
demand.
Limitations
With regard to the assessment of mediation, in the present study all variables
measured (emotional labor, WFI, burnout and psychosomatic complaints) are in fact
appraised, and thus measured subjectively. Therefore, we should keep in mind that it is
difficult to demonstrate a mediational effect in time, as suggested by the S-O-R model
of Woodworth (1928). Additionally, cross-sectional data prevents us from assessing
causal relationships. For example, it is possible that surface acting may cause
individuals to suffer from burnout and increased psychosomatic complaints and thus
this may be associated with higher levels of WFI.
The present study did not assess affectivity, which has been identified as an
important component of emotional regulation (Morris and Feldman, 1996). However,
the relationship between emotional labor and affectivity is not entirely clear, with
Brotheridge and Grandey (2002) finding significant (but weak) relationships between
NA and hiding negative emotions and surface acting, but not with either displaying
positive emotions or deep acting. Within the wider literature on the stressor-strain
relationship, some researchers call for the inclusion of NA (e.g. Watson and Clark,
Work-family
interference
45
1984), while some are opposed to it (e.g. Moyle, 1995; Schonfield, 1996). Indeed, Dollard
and Winefield (1998) even warn against its inclusion as this may lead to an
under-estimation of the impact of the work environment on strain.
Ashforth and Humphrey (1993) have suggested that employees who strongly
identify with their job role will feel more authentic in complying with display rules and
hence are likely to find it less effortful to display the required emotion. The present
study did not assess level of identification with job, which may have been an important
individual difference.
Finally, the present study is cross-sectional and thus the postulated relationships
cannot be interpreted causally. Longitudinal studies and/or quasi-experimental
research designs are needed to further validate the hypothesised causality of the
relationships.
Practical implications for both employees and managers
The practical importance of WFI is highlighted by a national US study (Bond et al.,
1998), which found that 85 percent of employees have some day-to-day family
responsibility, and virtually identical proportions of men and women report WFI
problems. Additionally, this research suggests that emotional labor is an important
antecedent of both WFI and burnout. In terms of the literature on job demands, the
results highlight the need to recognise that emotions and job-related emotional
regulation (e.g. customer interaction or management) is an increasingly important part
of work cultures. In terms of training and/or interventions, the need for employees to
decompress from their job before going home is particularly important in jobs with
high demands for emotional displays (e.g. civil servants in jobs that are highly
ceremonial). Such decompression can be aided by training, and indeed Smith (1999)
argues that the skill involved in displaying emotions be should valued in exactly the
same way as any other skill. Finally, Briner and Totterdell (2002) point out that
interventions focused on how employees feel (e.g. anger or contempt) is more likely to
focus interventions more precisely than knowing they are “stressed”.
There is considerable evidence demonstrating that managers and supervisors can
influence the emotional experiences of their employees (Ashkanasy, 2003;
McColl-Kennedy and Anderson, 2002). Managers can help employees to internalize
their roles and reduce the need for employees to feel compelled to fake or hide genuine
emotion (Ashforth and Humphrey, 1993). This is consistent with research showing that
leaders who express a clear vision and positive expectations for performance affected
employees’ identificantion with their work (Bono and Judge, 2003). A recent paper by
Vinson et al. (2005) indicates that employees experience fewer positive emotions when
interacting with their supervisors, except when interacting with supervisors rated high
on transformational leadership style. All of the aforementioned evidence points to the
fact managerial and supervisory training should include awareness regarding their
influence on employee’s emotional experiences.
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Corresponding author
Anthony J. Montgomery can be contacted at: amontgomery@rcsi-mub.com
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