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Service Without a Smile: Comparing the Consequences of Neutral and Positive Display Rules

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Abstract

We used an experimental design to examine the intrapersonal and interpersonal processes through which neutral display rules, compared to positive display rules, influence objective task performance of poll workers and ratings provided by survey respondents of the poll workers. Student participants (N = 140) were trained to adhere to 1 of the 2 display rule conditions while delivering opinion surveys to potential patrons of an organization during a 40-min period. Results showed that, compared to positive display rules, neutral display rules resulted in less task persistence and greater avoidance behavior. These effects were mediated through a greater use of expression suppression. In addition, neutral display rules resulted in less positive respondent mood, which accounted for lower ratings of service quality and of overall favorability attitudes toward the sponsoring organization. The importance and ubiquity of neutral display rules are discussed, given the potential for positive and negative consequences at work.
Service Without a Smile 1
Running head: EFFECTS OF NEUTRAL DISPLAY RULES
Service without a Smile:
Comparing the Consequences of Neutral and Positive Display Rules
John P. Trougakos
University of Toronto
Christine L. Jackson
Purdue University
Daniel J. Beal
Rice University
Author Note
This article was published Online First December 20, 2010. John P. Trougakos, Rotman
School of Management, University of Toronto; Christine L. Jackson, Krannert School of
Management, Purdue University; Daniel J. Beal, Department of Psychology, Rice University.
Part of this research was funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Grant 410-2008-0505.
All authors contributed equally to this research.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to John P. Trougakos,
University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management, 1265 Military Trail, Toronto, Ontario
M1C 1A5, Canada. E-mail: trougakos@utsc.utoronto.ca
PUBLISHED IN 2011 AT THE
J
OURNAL OF
A
PPLIED
P
SYCHOLOGY
,
96(2),
350-362
Service Without a Smile 2
Abstract
The present study used an experimental design to examine the intrapersonal and interpersonal
processes through which neutral display rules, compared to positive display rules, influence
objective task performance of poll workers and ratings provided by survey respondents of the
poll workers. Student participants (N=140) were trained to adhere to one of the two display rule
conditions while delivering opinion surveys to potential patrons of an organization during a 40-
minute time period. Results showed that, compared to positive display rules, neutral display
rules resulted in less task persistence and greater avoidance behavior. These effects were
mediated through a greater use of expression suppression. In addition, neutral display rules
resulted in less positive respondent mood, which accounted for lower ratings of both service
quality and overall favorability attitudes toward the sponsoring organization. The importance
and ubiquity of neutral display rules are discussed given their potential for both positive and
negative consequences at work.
Keywords: display rules, expression suppression, emotional labor, emotional regulation, job
performance
Service Without a Smile 3
Service without a smile: Comparing the Consequences of Neutral and Positive Display Rules
“Remaining neutral, reading the script accurately, and not reacting in a positive or
negative manner to the respondents’ answers are critical in collecting accurate, non-
biased data” (Director of Interviewing for a major North American polling organization).
“In our profession we need to minimize any emotions we might show, whether in
the emergency room, the operating room, or in consults with patients” (Physician).
“Keeping your cool and not getting emotional or showing emotion while dealing
with others can be the difference between life and death” (Law Enforcement Agent).
“Being unemotional and neutral while interacting with the public is the definition
of my job” (Judge).
Organizational norms dictating the emotions employees should express, as well as when
and how they should express them, are called display rules (Hochschild, 1983). For many
occupations, these display rules encourage positive emotional expressions (e.g., Beal, Trougakos,
Weiss, & Green, 2006; Pugh, 2001) and for a few occupations display rules may encourage
negative emotional expressions (e.g., Bono & Vey, 2007; Rafaeli & Sutton, 1991), but the quotes
above make it clear that positive and negative are not the only display rules required at work.
Instead, these quotes highlight a heretofore unexamined form of display rule: the need to refrain
from either positive or negative emotional expressions, or what we term neutral display rules.
Relative to jobs requiring univalenced displays (i.e., positive or negative), maintaining
neutral displays at work may be a particularly burdensome task, as adhering to these display
rules requires the monitoring and regulation of both positive and negative emotional states. A
natural question, therefore, is how frequently such display rules are encountered in various
occupations. We suspect these display rules are fairly common and may even reflect some of the
Service Without a Smile 4
more prototypical emotional labor occupations. In support of this assertion, we considered a list
of the 15 most emotionally laborious jobs from the O*NET database, as identified by Glomb and
colleagues (Glomb, Kammeyer-Mueller, & Rotundo, 2004). Among these occupations, at least
half of them can reasonably be identified as requiring the use of neutral display rules for a
substantial portion of their work tasks. Examples from this list include law enforcement officers,
social workers, therapists, doctors, judges, and lawyers. Indeed, we conducted informal
interviews with individuals who held many of these jobs, and, as reflected in the quotes above,
our expectations concerning the importance of neutral display rules were largely confirmed.
Reasons may vary for needing to maintain neutral emotional displays. Employees might
maintain a neutral exterior to not unduly influence the decisions, feelings, or actions of the
people with whom they interact (e.g., judge), or to maintain the trust of those with whom they
interact (e.g., psychiatrist). Neutral displays might also serve to increase perceptions of
competence (i.e., by projecting a calm and rational exterior; e.g., emergency room personnel),
protect against potential legal consequences (e.g., physician), or to maintain control over
potentially unpredictable or dangerous situations (e.g., police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers).
Beyond the jobs listed in Glomb and colleagues’ (2004) study, there are many other
occupations that likely require neutral display rules for altogether different reasons, including
negotiators, members of the news media, and interviewers for polling organizations.1 For
example, negotiators often adopt neutral emotional displays in order to protect and advance their
own interests (Thompson, Nadler, & Kim, 1999). Members of the news media are expected to
engage in neutral displays in order to convey information to the public in a credible and unbiased
manner. Similarly, polling organizations require interviewers to present an unbiased, neutral
demeanor when interacting with survey respondents – remaining calm even in the face of
Service Without a Smile 5
difficult interactions – in order to ensure the integrity of the data they gather (Asher, 1995; Katz,
1942). Neutral display rules in this occupation therefore may function to remove potential biases
that might arise from an interviewer's expressed emotions (Rosselli, Skelly, & Mackie, 1995).
A key finding from the emotional labor literature is that the regulation of emotion at work
is essential for delivering the emotional expressions expected by important constituents (e.g.,
supervisors, customers; Beal et al., 2006; Pugh, 2001; Trougakos, Beal, Green, & Weiss, 2008),
yet also is a source of stress linked to declines in employee well-being (Zapf, 2002). Prior
empirical research has demonstrated these effects primarily for positive display rules (cf., Bono
& Vey, 2007 and Rafaeli & Sutton, 1991), but no research to date has examined the extent to
which neutral display rules influence these inter and intrapersonal outcomes.
The present study considers the job of public opinion interviewer (or poll worker). We
trained participants to collect survey responses (i.e., to act as poll workers) using either positive
or neutral display rules, and examined both interpersonal and intrapersonal consequences of
these display rules. We compared neutral to positive display rules only, as positive rules are
predominant in emotional labor research (e.g., Grandey, 2003; Pugh, 2001). Negative display
rules are less common, both in research and in practice, thus making it more difficult to devise a
realistic experimental situation suitable for testing negative display rules with the other two
conditions in which participants could interact with members of the public. Thus, we focus on
exploring the mechanisms through which neutral display rules influence employees’ critical
work behaviors as well as their interactions with recipients of organizational services.
Theory and Hypotheses
Our approach emphasizes two important and immediate consequences of engaging in
neutral versus positive display rules. Each of these consequences has further implications either
Service Without a Smile 6
for the people with whom employees are interacting (i.e., interpersonal), or for the employees
themselves (i.e., intrapersonal). Specifically, we argue that through the transfer of affective state
(Barsade, 2002; Totterdell, 2000), positive display rules are more likely than neutral display rules
to transfer positive affect to interaction partners (i.e., survey respondents, in this case). We
suggest that the more pleasant state of people interacting with positive display rule employees
will bias their survey responses, producing more favorable responses for positive display rules
relative to the neutral display rule condition (Brief, Butcher, & Roberson, 1995; Forgas, 1995).
The second immediate consequence concerns the potentially greater burden for neutral
display rule jobs relative to positive display rule jobs. Although there are several possible
strategies available to employees for regulating the emotions displayed at work (e.g., reappraisal,
distraction, situation selection; see Gross, 1998b), we argue that the increased demands of neutral
display rules will result in a greater amount of one particular strategy: suppression of one's
emotional expressions. This strategy is well known as being particularly difficult to maintain
(Beal et al., 2006; Grandey, 2000; Gross, 1998a), and should result in greater depletion of self-
control resources (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven & Tice, 1998; Muraven & Baumeister,
2000). The work-related consequences of this sort of depletion is a recent topic in the applied
psychology literature (e.g., Beal, Weiss, Barros, & MacDermid, 2005), and empirical
examinations of self-control, or "ego" depletion effects in work domains have been limited
largely to interpersonal outcomes such as affective delivery (e.g., Trougakos et al., 2008). In the
current study, we extend the implications of ego depletion effects to include reduced persistence
and counterproductive avoidance behavior. Below, we offer support for this theoretical model.
Intrapersonal Consequences of Positive and Neutral Display Rules
Service Without a Smile 7
For individuals who have positive display rules at work, success in meeting these display
rules often involves combating the onset of discrepant, negative emotions (Diefendorff &
Gosserand, 2003; Hochschild, 1983). If these emotions can be anticipated, then an effective
strategy is to evade the emotional experience itself through reappraisal, distraction, or other
regulation efforts focused on the antecedents of the unwanted emotional experience (Grandey,
2000; Gross, 1998b). As the discrepant emotion is avoided altogether in antecedent-focused
emotion regulation, research suggests that maintaining positive display rules is relatively
straightforward and allows the employee to avoid the fatiguing aspects of regulation and remain
effective and positive (Grandey, 2003; Gross, 1998a; Sideman Goldberg & Grandey, 2007).
If the negative emotion cannot be anticipated, however, then the primary means of
regulating its influence is through what Gross (1998b) terms expression suppression and others
have termed surface acting (Grandey, 2000; Hochschild, 1983).2 Specifically, the employee must
conceal any sign of the negative emotion by effortfully controlling his or her emotion expression.
Although this strategy can be immediately effective in presenting the desired emotional display
(Beal et al., 2006; Gross, 1998a), it is a particularly depleting activity (Baumeister et al., 1998)
with definite negative implications for subsequent performance (Beal et al., 2005).
We argue that the particular form of display rule will influence the amount of expression
suppression, ultimately affecting subsequent performance-related regulatory failures. Certainly,
prior research provides evidence that display rules should result in increased emotion regulation
(e.g. Diefendorff, Croyle & Gosserand, 2005; Grandey, 2000; Hochschild, 1983); we suggest,
however, that neutral display rules will be particularly depleting by requiring relatively greater
amounts of expression suppression compared to positive display rules. Our reasoning is based
on a simple series of arguments: first, by definition, employees with neutral display rules must
Service Without a Smile 8
regulate both positive and negative emotional expressions to remain in the desired neutral state.
If we assume any particular emotional state is equally likely to occur –and we will have more to
say on this assumption in a moment – then employees with neutral display rules will have to
suppress more frequently. That is, neutral display rules call for suppression of both positive and
negative emotional expressions, whereas positive display rules call for suppression of negative
expressions only.
A key assumption in the above logic is that neutral display rules likely call for more
frequent expression suppression than positive display rules because positive and negative
emotional states are equally likely to occur. We offer this assumption charitably, despite the fact
that it is likely false. Indeed, research indicates, all else being equal, people tend to be in positive
affective states – states consistent with positive display rules. This assertion is supported by
several lines of research. First, research on the Pollyanna Principle demonstrates that thoughts,
memories, and communications generally favor positive stimuli over negative stimuli (Boucher
& Osgood, 1969; Matlin & Stang, 1978). Second, neuroanatomical studies consistently
demonstrate a positivity offset, in which the positive affective system is more responsive than the
negative affect system in the absence of stimuli with a clear affective valence (Cacioppo &
Gardner, 1999; Ito & Cacioppo, 2005; Ito, Cacioppo, & Lang, 1998). Third, at the aggregate
level, people across a wide range of cultures and experiences report being generally satisfied
with their lives and experiencing greater positive affect than negative affect (Diener, 2000); this
finding holds regardless of whether individuals are asked for summary judgments or if their
affective experiences are sampled over time (Diener & Diener, 1996; Seidlitz & Diener, 1993).
This argument is not meant to suggest that a tendency to be in a positive affective state
eliminates the need for regulation when following positive display rules. Indeed, many studies
Service Without a Smile 9
find that employees use expression suppression in positive display rule situations (Beal et al.,
2006; Sideman Goldberg & Grandey, 2007). Nevertheless, much of the emotional labor
literature (e.g. Grandey, 2000; Hochschild, 1983) suggests that when employees’ internal
emotional states tend to be congruent with their display requirements, emotional demands are
reduced and therefore less emotion regulation is required. As such, given that individuals are
more likely to be in a state that is consistent with positive display rules, expression suppression
will be less necessary relative to those who have neutral display rules.
H1: Display rule condition influences the amount of expression suppression, such that
neutral display rules result in greater expression suppression than positive display rules.
As has been argued by many scholars in the emotion regulation literature (e.g., Grandey,
2000; Muraven & Baumeister, 2000; Trougakos et al., 2008), expression suppression and
resulting performance decrements involve ego-depletion, which occurs when one instance of
behavior regulation (e.g., suppressing negative emotional expressions) reduces subsequent
efforts at regulating behavior. An important tenet of ego-depletion theory is that depletion can
influence any subsequent form of behavior regulation (Muraven & Baumeister, 2000). For
example, studies have documented the depleting influence of an initial act of regulation on
outcomes as varied as dieting behavior, saving money, inhibiting aggressive responses,
persistence of attention, and controlling sexual desire (Baumeister, Vohs, & Tice, 2007).
More importantly for the current study, in much of Baumeister and colleagues' initial
research examining the ego-depletion effect, expression suppression served as a primary means
of depleting one's ability to subsequently regulate behavior (Baumeister, et al., 1998; Muraven,
Tice, & Baumeister, 1998). For example, in one study (Baumeister et al., 1998, exp. 3),
participants who first suppressed their emotional expression subsequently completed fewer
Service Without a Smile 10
anagrams, demonstrating the influence of depletion on the regulation of effort and attention.
Furthermore, other research has documented that expression suppression is more difficult,
depleting, and physiologically and cognitively taxing than other forms of emotion regulation
(Beal et al., 2006; Gross, 1998a; Richards, 2004). To the extent that display rules require the
effortful suppression of one's emotional expressions, we can expect to see influences on
performance behaviors that also require behavior regulation.
Most, if not all job performance-related behaviors require some amount of behavior
regulation (Beal et al., 2005). Obviously, however, some behaviors are more difficult than
others to regulate. In many jobs, engaging in social interactions with co-workers, supervisors,
customers, or other members of the public represents a component essential to performing well
(Brief & Motowidlo, 1986; Hochschild, 1983). In many cases these interactions involve
approaching strangers and a) attempting to convince them to expend resources (e.g., time,
money, etc.) on behalf of an organization, or b) ensuring that a person is completely satisfied
with a product or service already purchased (e.g., customer service representatives). Much like
the laboratory findings of ego-depletion research, to the extent that employees are depleted,
persisting at such effortful behavior regulation may be difficult to maintain. Indeed, in many
cases, employees may resort to tactics that conserve regulatory resources (Muraven, Shmueli, &
Burkley, 2006), such as avoiding important work tasks altogether (Verbeke & Bagozzi, 2002).
In the current study, we examined whether the increased expression suppression associated with
neutral display rules can lead to reduced persistence in engaging in critical work tasks as well as
increased avoidance of critical work tasks. Formally,
H2: Expression suppression is (a) negatively related to persistence on critical work tasks and
(b) positively related to avoidance of critical work tasks.
Service Without a Smile 11
H3: Expression suppression mediates the relations between display rule condition and (a)
persistence and (b) avoidance behavior.
Interpersonal Consequences of Positive and Neutral Display Rules
In addition to the internal effects of display rules, there also are potential influences of
display rules on the perceptions and ratings of those members of the public with whom
employees interact. These effects begin with a well-documented process of mood contagion that
has received a large amount of theoretical (e.g., Hatfield, Cacioppo, & Rapson, 1994; Keltner &
Kring, 1998) and empirical support (e.g., Barsade, 2002; Chartrand & Bargh, 1999; Totterdell,
2000), including support within an emotional labor context (Pugh, 2001). Essentially, through
processes of mimicry and reciprocity of emotion expression, displays of one person can be
transmitted to others, creating similar overall affective experiences for the interacting dyad or
group (Hatfield et al., 1994; Moody, McIntosh, Mann, & Weisser, 2007). Given that display
rules exist, in part, to keep employees from reacting to the behaviors and emotions of those with
whom they interact (Hochschild, 1983), the likely direction of the contagion effect in an
emotional labor context is from employee (poll worker) to their interaction partner
(respondent).The implications of these contagion effects are that emotional labor employees
under positive display rules will transfer positive affect to those with whom they interact.
In contrast, employees under neutral display rules may instead generate less positive
moods for those with whom they interact. There are likely two possible reasons for this effect.
First, employees under neutral display rules may actively transfer cues of neutrality (e.g.,
remaining unemotional, calm, and collected). Second, it is also possible that employees under
neutral display rules simply transfer no affective information, with the effect instead being only a
relative lack of positive display transfer. Alas, the lack of prior investigations of mood contagion
Service Without a Smile 12
in neutral mood conditions makes it difficult to determine which explanation is most viable. Of
importance for the current study, however, is that in either of these cases, the consequence of
neutral display rules should be less positive affect experienced by the interaction partner.
H4: Display rule condition will influence respondent mood, such that mood will be less
positive for neutral display rules than for positive display rules.
As noted above, prior research has demonstrated contagion effects during emotional labor
interactions (Pugh, 2001). In particular, Pugh demonstrated that the expression of emotion by
bank tellers predicted the mood of customers. We extend this finding by demonstrating that
explicit display rules can govern the transfer of affect to survey respondents. A second finding
in Pugh's study was that customer mood predicted customer service ratings of the employee. We
also examined this form of social judgment, as we wished to document the indirect influence of
display rules on judgments directly relevant to the service encounter. In addition, we examined
whether respondent affect, induced by display rules, could penetrate into broader social
judgments tied less specifically to the service encounter.
Several scholars have offered theories to explain how one's affective state can influence a
wide range of social judgments (e.g., Brief et al., 1995; Isen, Shalker, Clark, & Karp, 1978).
Forgas (1995), for example, described the Affect Infusion Model (AIM), suggesting multiple
potential influences of affective state on social judgments. Specifically, the AIM proposes that
mood can influence judgments either directly (as a source of information; Schwarz & Clore,
1983), indirectly (by biasing recall; Bower, 1981), or minimally (circumventing affective state
altogether; Schwarz, Strack, Kommer, & Wagner, 1987). The particular form of affect infusion
is dependent on the type of processing called for in the judgment. When deliberative,
substantive processing is called for, judgments are influenced by mood through biased recall of
Service Without a Smile 13
mood-congruent information. When superficial judgments are made, mood serves as a heuristic
cue to form a judgment quickly and without expending much effort. When relevant information
is automatically retrievable or the respondent is motivated to respond in a particular manner,
mood has relatively little influence.
In the current study, we had survey respondents evaluate targets that were likely to have
higher levels of affect infusion. Specifically, in most cases of transaction-based service (e.g.,
poll worker interactions with survey respondents), the evaluations are intangible and subjective
(Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1985). As a result, likely processing strategies will be either
superficial (i.e., if the respondent has less motivation to provide a response) or substantive (i.e.,
if the survey respondent is motivated to accurately assess service quality or report attitudes).
According to the AIM, both of these processing strategies should be influenced by the mood of
the respondent. So, if positive display rules create more positive moods in respondents, relative
to neutral display rules, then we can expect an indirect effect on evaluations of service quality as
well as ratings of broader attitudes toward the sponsoring organization.
H5: Valence of respondent mood is positively related to respondent ratings of service quality.
H6: Valence of respondent mood mediates the relation between display rule condition and
respondent ratings of service quality.
H7: Valence of respondent mood is positively related to the favorability of attitude ratings
toward the sponsoring organization.
H8: Valence of respondent mood mediates the relation between display rule condition and
the favorability of attitude ratings toward the sponsoring organization.
Finally, we sought to differentiate the effects of mood on different types of respondent
ratings. Although we anticipated that mood would have a positive effect on both sets of ratings
Service Without a Smile 14
(i.e., positive mood should result in positive ratings), we anticipated that the magnitude of the
effects might differ. Our reasoning is based on recent cognitive psychological research on
memory and survey responding (Bradburn, Rips, & Shevell, 1987; Conway & Pleydell-Pearce,
2000; Robinson & Clore, 2002a). Briefly, ratings of immediate or recent events (e.g., a service
encounter) are based on episodic memory for the specific event, whereas ratings of more global
or abstract entities (e.g., attitudes toward the sponsoring organization) are more likely to be
based on semantic memory that is less event-specific and guided more by identity-related beliefs
(Robinson & Clore, 2002a; 2002b; Schimmack & Oishi, 2005). As such, ratings for more
immediate experiences, such as a service encounter, should exhibit a stronger influence of
affective state during that encounter (Forgas, 1995), whereas ratings of more abstract entities,
such as an organization, should be less influenced by one's affective state.
H9: The relation between respondent mood and ratings of service quality is stronger than the
relation between respondent mood and favorability of attitude ratings toward the sponsoring
organization.
Method
Participants and Overview
Participants were 145 undergraduate business students at a public university, who
participated in the study for course credit. On average, participants were 22 years old; 42% were
female; and 61% were Caucasian (26% Asian, 4% African American, and 9% other).
During recruitment, participants were told that in return for extra credit they would be
working as poll workers in a study examining people’s effectiveness at conducting surveys.
Moreover, they were told that as part of the study they would be assisting the research team in
collecting actual data from the student body for two prominent campus organizations, and that
Service Without a Smile 15
their job was to solicit respondents and conduct the surveys provided by the organizations (both
organizations requested complete anonymity, and thus we do not identify them in this report).
Potential participants were told that the research team had been commissioned by the campus
organizations to get feedback from the student body about the organizations and various
programs that the organizations were running. They were instructed that the information
collected from the surveys would be used by the organizations for development purposes, and
thus it was imperative to do the best job they could.
Participants were randomly assigned to either a positive display rule condition (n = 78) or
a neutral display rule condition (n = 67). In order to minimize potential social influences from
having multiple interacting participants, each participant was run individually. Each
participant’s session was divided into four segments: a thirty minute introduction and training
segment, a 5 minute review segment, a forty minute task segment, and a fifteen minute wrap-up.
At the time of sign-up, participants were instructed to complete a pre-study questionnaire
containing questions pertaining to demographic information.
Procedure
At the start of each session, participants were reminded that they would be working as
poll workers for one of two prominent campus organizations and that their job would be to
survey members of the student body about that particular organization. Data collection took
place at one of two locations on campus. Both locations were common places for organizations
to set up booths in order to promote their organization in some way.
Training. During the first thirty minutes, participants were given an overview of their
task and organization and were trained on how to deliver the opinion poll, including how to
approach potential respondents, interact with them, and conclude the interaction. During the
Service Without a Smile 16
training, the experimenter instructed all participants to make eye contact with respondents and to
act in a professional and courteous manner. Participants also were instructed that their goal was
to survey as many people as possible, and to attempt to solicit anyone who looked like a member
of the student body who passed within a designated 10-12 foot distance in front of the booth
where they were stationed.
A research assistant provided detailed instructions as well as a handout describing how
participants were expected to interact with the public. For the positive display rule condition, the
instructions were focused on participants displaying positive emotion and making a good
impression for the organization. More specifically, participants in the positive display rule
condition were told it was extremely important to “always smile and look happy… be energetic
the entire time in order to attract as many people as possible and to provide people with a
positive impression of (organization X).”
For the neutral display rule condition, instructions focused on participants remaining
neutral in their displays so that they would not bias respondents' answers. More specifically,
participants in this condition were instructed to maintain neutrality while interacting with
respondents and remain neutral and calm in their expression. In particular, participants in this
condition were told that “it is extremely important that you be neutral in your expressions the
entire time you are at the booth… so as not to bias the answers of the respondents."
Throughout these instructions, wording consistent with each display rule was used to
emphasize the desired emotional displays. For example, when approaching potential
respondents, participants were instructed, “As people pass by, try to get them to stop by making
eye contact and saying in a (neutral and calm/positive and enthusiastic) manner: ‘Excuse me,
could you take a minute to answer a few questions about (Organization X)’.” If the person agrees
Service Without a Smile 17
and stops, make eye contact and (calmly/ enthusiastically) say in a (neutral/positive) manner:
‘Thank you, this will only take a minute or two’. Participants were instructed to thank them for
stopping, provide directions for responding to the survey – including how the survey was to be
administered – and describe the possible response options from which they could select. If
survey respondents asked any questions, poll workers were to answer them as completely as
possible. From the time solicitation was initiated to the time the participants began asking the
survey questions took approximately one minute. Participants were then instructed to read each
of the questions to the respondents and record their answers. If the person solicited declined the
offer to respond to the survey, participants were instructed to say in a (neutral/positive) manner:
‘Thank you’ and move on to next person.
Upon completion of the survey, participants were instructed to ask respondents if they
could complete a very brief written survey at the booth. If respondents indicated that they would
complete the second survey, the participants directed them to a research assistant stationed at the
booth, and immediately continued soliciting potential respondents. In the event respondents
declined to complete the second survey, participants thanked them for their time, and proceeded
to solicit potential respondents again. Throughout the training, it was emphasized to participants
to do their best to maintain the desired display requirement regardless of the positive, negative,
indifferent, or unexpected reactions of those they solicited, to survey as many people as possible,
and to follow the directions on administering the surveys as closely and consistently as possible.
In order to create accountability, the experimenter emphasized to participants that they
were representing the organization during the task and that the information that they collected
would be utilized by the organization. For further emphasis, and to add greater legitimacy to the
task for the participants and the public, the organizations sponsoring the polls provided large
Service Without a Smile 18
professionally made banners and signs with their name and slogan written on them that were
displayed at the booth. Participants were further told that any deviation from the guidelines
could contaminate the survey results. In addition, participants were informed that their
performance on the task (i.e., their ability to follow the guidelines) would be rated by the
respondents (using the short exit survey that was administered by another research assistant at
the booth out of view of the participant). Finally, at the end of the training segment, participants
were given a measure that served as a manipulation check by gauging the extent to which they
understood the display rules. Their responses to these questions were checked by the research
assistant to make sure the instructions were understood, and any discrepancies were clarified.
Review and Task Session. After training, participants were escorted to a booth location
and given a few minutes to go over their material while a research assistant set-up the booth and
erected the organizational banner and signs. Once set-up was complete, participants were
reminded that they had 40 minutes to survey as many people as possible while adhering to the
display rules. Finally, they were instructed to begin as the research assistant recorded the time.
Once the session commenced, the experimenter recorded the amount of traffic during the session
as well as the number of times that the participant had an opportunity to solicit a response from a
pedestrian but chose not to (i.e., avoided a potential respondent). After the 40 minute task,
participants completed a last questionnaire including questions about their use of emotional
regulation strategies during the task. On completion of the questionnaire, participants were
thanked for their participation and excused.
Measures
Manipulation check. Participants' understanding of the display rules was assessed with
six items specifically created for this study, on a 5-point scale ranging from "strongly agree" to
Service Without a Smile 19
"strongly disagree." The items included, “It is important that I smile at all times,” “This task
requires me to be enthusiastic,” “Smiling is not a requirement for this task,” “I should maintain a
neutral facial expression at all times,” “It is important that I do not express any emotions while
conducting the survey,” and “This task requires me to be neutral in my expressions.” Internal
consistency reliability was at an acceptable level (α = .96).
Expression suppression. Two items used previously in the organizational literature
(e.g., Grandey, 2003) were adapted to assess suppression of emotional expressions during the
task, and included "How frequently did you have to resist expressing your true feelings" and
"How frequently did you have to hide your true feelings about the situation." Responses were
along a 5-point scale ranging from "Not at all" to "All the time." Published versions of the scale
(e.g., Brotheridge & Lee, 1998) include a third item that does not assess expression suppression
per se. Considering the fairly narrow domain of suppressing emotional expressions at work and
the constrained time period under consideration, we felt that two items would be sufficient to
reliably capture the construct of interest (Cronbach, 1960; Nunnally, 1967). Internal consistency
reliability supported this notion by attaining an acceptable level (α = .80).
Avoidance. As one of our intrapersonal dependent variables, we made certain that
ratings of avoidance behavior were collected from a second source. The experimenter rated
avoidance during the 40-minute survey solicitation period by counting the total number of
pedestrians that passed within the designated 10-12 feet of the table that the participant could
have approached but chose not to. Pedestrians who passed by while the participant was engaged
with other potential respondents were not included in this count.
Task persistence. The second of our intrapersonal dependent variables was also
provided by a source other than participant self-reports. Task persistence consisted of the total
Service Without a Smile 20
number of people that were surveyed by the participant during the 40-minute session as indicated
by the number of completed surveys.
Respondent mood. The mood of each survey respondent was assessed after completing
his or her survey. Given the desire to reduce respondent burden and our interest in the valence of
mood state, we assessed mood by asking survey respondents to "indicate how you are currently
feeling,” using a 9-point scale ranging from very negative (1) to very positive (9), with neutral
(5) as the midpoint. Previous research has supported the reliability and validity of a single-item
measure of mood valence (Pavot & Diener, 1993; Russell, Weiss, & Mendelsohn, 1989). Scores
for survey respondent mood were averaged for each participant (i.e., poll worker) across all
respondents who completed the survey during the 40-minute session.
Respondent ratings of service quality. Service quality was measured on a 9-point scale
(1=strongly disagree to 9= strongly agree) with four items similar to those that have been used
previously in the emotional labor literature (e.g., Gosserand & Diefendorff, 2005; Grandey,
2003) but modified for the purposes of this study. Given we were examining the influence of
affect display rules on service ratings, our modifications included the removal of items assessing
affective delivery directly (e.g., "The person was smiling"), as these are confounded with
positive display rules and respondent mood. The selected items therefore included “This person
appeared to be sincere,” “This person was courteous,” “This person acted in a professional
manner,” and “Overall, this person was effective in administering the survey.” Again, ratings
were averaged across all respondents for each participant (i.e., poll worker) during the 40-minute
session. Internal consistency reliability was at an acceptable level (α = .97).
Favorability of attitudes toward the sponsoring organization. Fifteen items were
provided to the research team by each organization to assess overall attitudes toward each
Service Without a Smile 21
organization. These questions were specific to the organization but primarily assessed
respondent feelings, beliefs, behaviors, and overall evaluations concerning the organization (i.e.,
they conformed to traditionally accepted definitions of attitudes; Crites, Fabrigar, & Petty, 1994;
Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). Sample items (adjusted to maintain anonymity) included, “[Members
of this organization] are helpful and friendly", "[This organization] has a favorable reputation
within the campus community", and "In general I am satisfied with all that [this organization]
has to offer." Responses were made on a 5-point scale (1=strongly disagree to 5 = strongly
agree). Internal consistency reliability was at an acceptable level (α = .72).
Control variables and validity checks. Several control variables were included to
account for potential alternative explanations to observed relations. First, in addition to having a
known effect on service ratings (Pugh, 2001), the amount of pedestrian traffic during each
session would likely have a large effect on both the task persistence measure as well as the
measure of avoidance. As mentioned above, experimenters rated the amount of traffic at three
times during each session (beginning, middle, and end) on a 5-point scale ranging from "Little to
no people passing by" to "Constant large number of people passing by". The three ratings were
averaged together to form a composite for the entire session. A second control variable was a
dummy code that indicated which of the two organizations was the target of the survey. A final
control variable was also a dummy code that indicated which of two locations was used during
the data collection process.
In addition to the control variables modeled in our analyses, we also included several
measures designed to ensure that our manipulation was construct valid and to probe potential
alternative explanations of the influence of display rules. These measures included an assessment
Service Without a Smile 22
of perceived task efficacy (collected after training but before beginning the task), task realism
(assessed after each session), and commitment to the task (also assessed after each session).3
Results
Overview and Preliminary Analysis
Prior to evaluating the overall model, we checked to ensure that each participant
understood the display rules that were given to them for their session. Participants in the positive
display rule condition (PDR; coded as '1') rated their task as requiring significantly more positive
displays of emotion (M = 4.487, SD = .71) than participants in the neutral display rule condition
(NDR; coded as '0'; M = 1.900, SD = .440), t(143) = 26.053, p < .05.
Given the evidence for the construct validity of our manipulation (see footnote 3), we
moved on to evaluate the overall model presented in Figure 1. Due to missing data for some
cases, listwise deletion resulted in a total sample size of 140 for fitting the model. Considering
that most of our variables of interest did not conform to traditional measurement models (e.g., a
manipulation, single item measures, objective counts), we chose to specify our model using a
path analytic framework (i.e., treating variables as manifest as opposed to latent). Table 1
presents correlations of all variables used in the model. We first evaluated overall model fit and
subsequently examined specific hypotheses through tests of specific path coefficients (for direct
effects) or indirect paths (for mediated effects). Traditional standard error estimates for indirect
effects (e.g., Sobel, 1982) are known to be accurate only for large samples (Stone & Sobel,
1990). Recent advances in bootstrapping methods now allow for unbiased estimates of standard
errors for indirect effects (Shrout & Bolger, 2002). As such, all indirect effects were evaluated
using 1000 bootstrapped samples of the data. These bootstrapped distributions of indirect effects
were used to derive means and 95% confidence intervals around the product coefficients of the
Service Without a Smile 23
paths (Shrout & Bolger, 2002). Using this method, mediation is supported when the 95%
confidence interval surrounding the average indirect effect does not include zero.
Model Fit
We estimated the model depicted in Figure 1 with Mplus 4.1 latent variable modeling
software. Given the 10 variables in the model (one exogenous manipulated variable, six
endogenous measured variables, and three control variables), we could have estimated up to 45
parameters before specifying an underidentified model. We estimated 6 structural paths, 6
residual variances (for the 6 endogenous variables), and 6 correlations between the endogenous
variables that were not themselves predictor variables. By default, Mplus 4.1 estimates these
correlations. In our model this included correlations between Avoidance, Persistence, Service
Quality, and Attitude Favorability. In addition to these parameters, we estimated paths from our
three control variables to all endogenous variables (18 parameters), leaving 9 degrees of freedom
in our model. Note that these control variable paths have been removed from Figure 1 for the
sake of simplicity. The control variable paths are reported in Table 2, however.4 The resulting
model fit the data well, χ2(9) = 14.586, p = .103, CFI = .978, RMSEA = .067. Below, we
describe the pattern of path coefficients as they relate to our specific hypotheses.
Intrapersonal Consequences of Display Rules
Careful examination of Figure 1 reveals that the pattern of significant relations provides
support for all of our hypotheses. Specifically, neutral display rules resulted in an increased
amount of expression suppression relative to positive display rules (H1). The use of expression
suppression strategies during the session was negatively related to persistence behavior (H2a)
and positively related to avoidance behavior (H2b).5 Finally, examinations of indirect effects and
their standard errors (using resampling methods described by Shrout & Bolger, 2002), revealed
Service Without a Smile 24
that expression suppression significantly mediated the relation between display rules and
persistence (H3a; average indirect effect = .695, bootstrapped lower 95% CI = .068,
bootstrapped upper 95% CI = 1.322) and avoidance (H3b; average indirect effect = -2.356,
bootstrapped lower 95% CI = -4.447, bootstrapped upper 95% CI = -.265).
Although our model did not specify a direct influence of display rules on persistence or
avoidance other than through expression suppression (James, Mulaik, & Brett, 2006), we
examined additional models that included direct effects from display rules to these outcomes for
the purposes of estimating the degree of mediation that occurring in our data. Neither of these
direct effects was significant; furthermore, the mediating effect of expression suppression
accounted for 63% of the relation between display rules and persistence, and 40% of the relation
between display rules and avoidance.
Interpersonal Consequences of Display Rules
Much like the results for the intrapersonal consequences of display rules, the results for
interpersonal consequences also were supported by the pattern of observed relations. Positive
display rules resulted in greater positive mood from survey respondents compared to neutral
display rules (H4). Furthermore, support was found for the role of respondent mood as a
predictor of respondent ratings, in that mood was positively related both to service quality (H5)
and favorability of attitudes toward the organization (H7). In addition, respondent mood also
served as a mediator of the relation between display rules and both forms of ratings (H6 and H8).
In particular, indirect effect tests were significant for the path leading from display rules to mood
to service quality (average indirect effect = .159, bootstrapped lower 95% CI = .050,
bootstrapped upper 95% CI = .268) and from display rules to mood to favorability of attitudes
(average indirect effect = .044, bootstrapped lower 95% CI = .001, bootstrapped upper 95% CI =
Service Without a Smile 25
.088). Again, in order to estimate the degree of mediation occurring in our data, we estimated
models that included direct effects of display rules on service quality and attitude favorability.
These models revealed again that neither of the direct effects was significant; furthermore, the
mediating effect of respondent mood accounted for 82% of the relation between display rules
and service quality, and 36% of the relation between display rules and attitude favorability.
Finally, we hypothesized that the influence of respondent mood on ratings of service
quality would be stronger than the influence of mood on respondent favorability of attitudes
toward the organization. As a first step in this analysis, we standardized the two outcome
variables so that the coefficients being compared would have similar scales. Next, we compared
the initial model, in which these two paths were freely estimated, to an alternative model in
which these two paths were constrained to be equal. All other specifications in these two models
were identical, allowing a direct test of the difference between these two path coefficients
(Raykov & Marcoulides, 2006). Using a chi-square difference test, we determined that the fit for
the constrained model was significantly worse than the unconstrained model, Δχ2(1) = 8.211, p <
.05, indicating that the two paths were significantly different and supporting H9.
Discussion
This study examined intrapersonal as well as interpersonal processes in the influence of
positive and neutral display rules on both task and interpersonal components of a demanding
emotional labor job. Specifically, we suggested that compared to positive display rules,
adherence to neutral display rules would lead participants to greater use of expression
suppression when interacting with survey respondents. Results also confirmed that neutral
display rules indirectly result in lower task persistence and greater task avoidance, mediated by
greater use of expression suppression. In addition, we observed many interpersonal effects of
Service Without a Smile 26
adopting particular display rules. These effects included less positive respondent mood in the
neutral display condition. Mood also played a mediating role in connecting display rule
condition to respondent ratings, with lower mood linked to lower ratings of service quality as
well as less positive attitudes toward the sponsoring organization. The pattern of relations was
consistent with the notion that display rule condition initiated these effects. The remainder of
this section elaborates on the contributions of this study, explores the practical implications of
our findings, and discusses the limitations and future directions of this work.
Contributions to Research, Theory, and Practice
The current study makes several contributions to the extant literature. First, by
examining realistic work behaviors that are essential to the requirements of many emotional
labor jobs, our findings have enriched our understanding in several areas of basic and applied
research. The intrapersonal work outcomes examined were highly dependent upon continued
self-regulation, thereby extending the generalizability and applicability of limited resource
theories of self-regulation (Muraven & Baumeister, 2000). Furthermore, basic research on
emotion regulation has emphasized how manipulated or dispositional regulation strategies can
influence emotion expression (Gross, 1998a; Gross & John, 2003), but largely has ignored the
influence of display rules on the selection and reliance upon particular strategies. The current
study suggests that display rules themselves can lead to the adoption of particular regulation
strategies, a view that may help explain variability in strategy use across jobs and work contexts.
Given the inherently interpersonal nature of emotion expression and regulation, our
results also speak to basic research examining the connection between affective state and the
valence of social judgments, and how the affective tone of ongoing social interactions can often
have an indirect influence upon these processes. Relative to survey respondents interacting with
Service Without a Smile 27
participants in the neutral display rule condition, those interacting with participants in the
positive display rule condition were not only more positive in their views of the quality of
service provided, but also more positive in their attitudes toward the sponsoring organization.
These results suggest that the emotional expressions of a social interaction partner can affect not
only judgments concerning that interaction partner, but also can influence broad attitudes toward
an object unrelated to the immediate social interaction. Furthermore, our data are consistent with
the notion that these effects are due largely to the affective state transferred from the poll worker
to the survey respondent and that judgments based on episodic memory are more influenced by
immediate affective state than judgments based on more deeply held semantic associations (e.g.,
Bradburn, et al., 1987; Robinson & Clore, 2002).
Turning to more applied contributions of our research, as one of the first studies to
consider neutral display rules in emotional labor jobs, the demonstration of the unique
consequences of this form of display rule provides new evidence of how pervasive and
influential the control of emotion at work can be. Despite the emphasis of past research on
positive display rules, clearly other types of display rules are routine in many jobs and have
tangible effects on important work outcomes. Our findings add to prior research demonstrating
that the display of negative emotion (Bono & Vey, 2007) as well as a lack of display rules
(Sideman Goldberg & Grandey, 2007) can also have differential consequences both for
employees and organizations.
Furthermore, by focusing on volitional work behavior, such as task persistence and
counterproductive avoidance behavior, the current study has extended the criterion space
relevant to emotional labor. With few exceptions (e.g. Grandey, Dickter, & Sin, 2004; Sideman
Goldberg & Grandey, 2007), the primary criterion variables in emotional labor research have
Service Without a Smile 28
been ratings of service effectiveness, employee emotional displays, and employee well-being.
Although the importance of understanding antecedents of these variables is clear, the lack of
work exploring other elements of performance in emotional labor jobs has left many unanswered
questions. This study makes it clear that there are repercussions of emotional labor relevant not
only to employee well-being and customer perceptions, but also to task performance.
Additionally, as illustrated by the quotes at the outset of this paper, neutral displays may
play an important and often critical role in successfully carrying out elements of many jobs. Our
results indicate these display requirements could prove quite taxing for employees. Managers
must thus be aware of and balance the potential negative impact of expression suppression for
important behaviors, such as task persistence and avoidance, with the practical, and often
essential, benefits of employees maintaining a neutral exterior. In this study, participants’
interactions were monitored for only 40 minutes. Extrapolating our results to a typical work shift
puts the potential consequences of employees’ use of neutral displays into perspective.
How then should such employees handle the demands of a job requiring neutral displays?
We provide three suggestions. First, it is likely that cultivating the use of regulation strategies
other then suppression could provide a beneficial approach to maintaining a neutral display.
Indeed, our results suggested that expression suppression accounted for between 40% and 63%
of the total effect of display rule condition on the persistence and avoidance outcomes. This
result indicates that strategies other than expression suppression may account for some of this
effect. Gross (1998b) and others (e.g., Grandey, 2000; 2003) suggest that strategies such as
reappraisal are far less demanding than suppression, and may reduce the consequences for
maintaining a neutral demeanor in front of customers. In the current study, all participants were
new to the task and may not have been able to develop reappraisal tactics effectively. It may be
Service Without a Smile 29
that through repeated interactions with the public, employees develop scripts for reinterpreting
the context (Diefendorff & Gosserand, 2003). In the case of polling workers, this might involve
repeatedly reminding oneself of the importance of not biasing survey responses. In other cases,
such as medical settings, this may involve thoughts concerning the potential damaging effects of
inappropriately influencing patients’ decisions, offering false hope to a patient's family, or
projecting a flippant and uncaring appearance by providing bad news in a positive manner.
Second, recent evidence suggests brief respites can have a positive effect on subsequent
behavior regulation (Trougakos et al., 2008). Importantly, however, these breaks must include
activities that are relatively low in the amount of regulation required. If employees continue to
regulate their behavior during breaks, the benefits may be lost. A final and related suggestion is
for neutral display rule employees to do something to regain or buffer the loss of regulatory
resources. Although research on this topic is only just beginning, several scholars have noted
possible ways for individuals to stem the tide of ego-depletion. For example, Muraven and
Slessareva (2003) detailed how increased intrinsic motivation to perform a task may counteract
ego-depletion. This evidence suggests that a particularly potent form of reappraisal may involve
efforts to bolster the importance, positive aspects, or other virtuous elements of their jobs.
In addition to having practical implications for objective performance outcomes, our
research also provides insights into subjective respondent evaluations. First, neutral displays
resulted in respondents feeling less positive mood compared to when employees were in positive
display rule conditions. This differential influence on mood was associated with decreased
ratings of service quality as well as lower overall evaluations of attitudes toward the
organization. At first glance, these results may seem to support managers encouraging
employees to display positive emotions in all contexts. An important point to realize, however,
Service Without a Smile 30
is that the influence of respondent mood is likely to reflect a bias in their ratings, as previous
research has shown positive mood to result in increased evaluation favorability (e.g. Brief et al.,
1995; Sinclair, 1988). To the extent respondent mood colors heuristic processing or otherwise
biases the valence of recalled information, it reflects an influence that is not tied to the object
being rated. Thus, in situations such as opinion polling or when organizations are seeking
truthful feedback about their business, neutral displays may be able to reduce the impact of
mood-induced rating biases, potentially providing organizations with more balanced information.
Limitations and Future Research Directions
When considering the theoretical and practical implications of our findings, one must
keep in mind its limitations. First, although we employed a realistic experimental design with
naturally occurring interactions, participants were not actual employees and were not working
for a real wage; therefore, one must consider the use of this sample when interpreting the results.
Participants may not have taken the work as seriously as someone concerned with maintaining
their employment, leading to a reduction in their effort compared to actual organizational
employees. Though we accounted for some of these alternatives in our preliminary analyses, we
of course cannot completely rule out this possibility. Similarly, the brief duration of the survey
session (40 minutes) may have limited participants' ability to learn more effective ways to
manage their emotions doing this type of job. Over time, employees in actual organizations may
find ways of regulating their emotions that minimize the use of expression suppression.
However, to the extent that neutral display rules can result in greater expression suppression and
subsequent ego-depletion, then our findings are of value to organizations, as employees will
generally devote greater resources to adhering to neutral display requirements in order to meet
the expectations of their managers or the public.
Service Without a Smile 31
Although there are some limitations associated with using students as the employees of
our poll worker occupation, this job and our approach to examining it offered many practical
advantages. First, poll workers provide a realistic option for testing both neutral and positive
display conditions, as the explanation for either of these display rules to participants (“be
positive to make a good impression” or “be neutral so as not to bias responses”) is believable and
reflective of situations that members of these occupations likely encounter. Second, it allowed
participants the opportunity to interact with members of the public in naturally occurring
exchanges, providing greater realism to the experiment both for participants and respondents.
Moreover, this occupation requires relatively little training (i.e., compared to, for example,
physicians, therapists, or police officers), which allowed our undergraduate students to
realistically engage in tasks consistent with poll workers employed by organizations. Given
these considerations, we felt that simulating the poll worker occupation provided a reasonable
context in which to examine the roll of neutral display rules in the emotional labor domain.
Despite the manipulation of display rules, another limitation of our study is that the
design necessitated some aspects of our causal model to include concurrently assessed variables.
In particular, we could not assess respondent mood prior to their attitude ratings, as these ratings
provided the premise for the poll worker-survey respondent interaction. As a result, the causal
ordering of these variables may be questioned. In such cases, the likelihood of alternate causal
orders should be considered on the basis of theory (Baron & Kenny, 1986; MacKinnon,
Fairchild, & Fritz, 2007). In this study, the relevant alternative theory suggests that service
quality and/or attitudes toward the organization are directly influenced by display rules, and that
these social judgments then influence the mood of the survey respondent. Given the large body
of research consistent with the currently specified causal order (e.g., Brief et al, 1995; Fiedler,
Service Without a Smile 32
Asbeck, & Nickel, 1991; Isen & Baron, 1991; Forgas, 1995; Sinclair & Mark, 1991) and the lack
of empirical evidence currently supporting the alternative causal ordering (cf. Clore, Schwarz, &
Conway, 1994), we have greater confidence in our model; nevertheless, our study cannot rule out
such alternatives. Moreover, though our interpretation of the respondent mood bias was a
positive bias from the positive display rule condition, it is possible to interpret it instead as a
potential negative bias introduced by the neutral display rule condition. As the mood means for
both conditions were near the neutral part of the scale, a precise interpretation is difficult to
attain. Subsequent research may benefit from disentangling these two possibilities.
Reflecting further on the nature of the survey response measures, we note that our study
can only point out a valence effect of display rule; yet, valence of responses is only one aspect of
bias that may or may not be critical for organizations interested in collecting opinions of their
employees or the public. A logical extension of the current research therefore would be to
examine whether the quality of the responses differed as a function of the poll workers' display
rules. For example, it may be that a greater halo effect might be observed when positive display
rules are in place, speaking to the need to remain neutral. As our measure was unidimensional,
we could not evaluate whether increased halo existed in responses given under the different
display rules. Furthermore, it is worth considering whether mood effects on valence of responses
would always be considered an unwanted bias. In some situations (e.g., assessing stable
dispositions or overall attitudes), mood effects would reasonably be considered a source of
unwanted influence. In other situations (e.g., assessing the affective climate of one's work group
or organization), mood state might be a reasonable and valid part of the construct being assessed.
A final potential limitation of this study concerns the nature of our operational definition
of neutral display rules. By asking these participants to be neutral in their expressions, it is
Service Without a Smile 33
possible that we manipulated expression suppression itself, rather than neutral display rules. The
goal of the condition, however, was not to manipulate the method by which participants
remained positive or neutral; rather, it was to manipulate the emotions to be expressed during the
task. As discussed earlier, there are a variety of regulation strategies that people have at their
disposal other than expression suppression (e.g., reappraisal). Indeed, although it was not the
focus of the current report, we did ask participants about the extent to which they "deep acted"
(e.g., "Try to actually experience the emotions that you had to show."). If the neutral display rule
condition actually manipulated expression suppression as opposed to neutral displays, then we
would expect to see minimal or at least comparably lower levels of deep acting in this condition.
Levels of deep acting, however, were at the midpoint of the scale in both conditions and not
significantly different from each other (MNDR = 3.00, MPDR = 3.12, t(143) = .859, p = .392, d =
.14). Taken together with the other assessments of this manipulation, this evidence suggests that
our manipulation of neutral display rules was construct valid.
In conclusion, this study provides broad evidence that neutral display rules have
important implications for workers and organizations. If the quotes presented at the beginning of
this paper are any indication, future research will demonstrate that neutral display rules are
common in a wide variety of jobs. Indeed, a likely next step in emotional labor research will be
to move beyond a static conceptualization of display rules. It seems quite likely that many jobs
require employees to maintain positive displays, negative displays, or neutral displays to match
the needed context for different work episodes. Further, there likely are occasions that require
employees to express true emotions as candidly as possible (Diefendorff et al., 2005). Such a
contingent view of emotion regulation at work highlights the importance of understanding the
intrapersonal and interpersonal consequences of all forms of display rules.
Service Without a Smile 34
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Footnote
1Although these jobs were not among those in Glomb et al.'s (2004) list of the top 15
most demanding emotional labor jobs, it is important to note that none of these jobs were
included in the O*NET database at that time. Indeed, using the methods described by Glomb and
her colleagues in creating the list, the public opinion interviewer occupation that is the focus of
this study (i.e., specifically, "Interviewers, Except Eligibility and Loan") would easily have
ranked in the top 15.
2Given our conceptual and measurement emphasis on the regulatory burdens of
expression suppression (e.g., Baumeister et al., 1998; Gross, 1998a; 1998b), and that the term
surface acting refers more generally to expressing emotions "in bad faith" (Grandey, 2003, p.
87), we rely primarily on terminology referencing the suppression of emotional expressions,
though we acknowledge a large degree of overlap between these two concepts.
3 Before proceeding with hypothesis testing, we examined several potential alternative
explanations involving these measures. In particular, we wished to eliminate the possibility that
participants had different expectations of success in the different conditions (i.e., task efficacy),
perceived the tasks to be differentially realistic (i.e., task realism), or were somehow
differentially committed to their tasks (i.e., task commitment). These analyses suggested no
significant differences between the two conditions on any of these constructs (p's ranged from
.40-.87; d's ranged from .03-.14). As such, we do not include them in the primary analysis
section.
4As can be seen in Tables 1 and 2, the control variables exhibited several moderate to
large correlations with study variables. Unsurprisingly, pedestrian traffic was related to the
number of people solicited and the number of people avoided. Location of the survey session
Service Without a Smile 43
was related to number of people solicited, perhaps because one location also had more pedestrian
traffic. Finally, the sponsoring organization was related to organizational favorability;
specifically, one organization was viewed more favorably than the other organization. We note
here that inclusion of these control variables ultimately had little effect on the model results. A
model specified without control variables resulted in similar model fit,
2(9) = 10.204, p = .334,
CFI = .989, RMSEA = .031. All paths were identical in direction and similar in size, and all but
one path (from Emotion Suppression to Persistence) remained significant (standardized
coefficient = -.154, p = .069).
5Realizing that these two variables are counts and therefore might be non-normally
distributed, we examined their distributions visually. This inspection revealed that their
distributions were approximately normal; nevertheless, we re-estimated these effects using
Poisson regression models. The effects for persistence and avoidance both remained significant
and increased relative to the estimates that treated them as normally distributed (standardized
path coefficients = .414 and -.358, respectively). As the distributions conform more closely to
normal, we chose to interpret the initial model results.
Service Without a Smile 44
Table 1
Means, standard deviations, and correlations between primary study variables.
M SD 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
1. Display Rule .54 .50 --
2. Expression Suppression 3.24 1.11 -.32 .80
3. Respondent Mood 4.17 .25 .24 -.15 --
4. Persistence 15.14 5.12 .15 -.17 -.06 --
5. Avoidance 18.84 17.38 -.15 .23 -.09 -.06 --
6. Service Quality 7.79 .55 .17 -.18 .54 .11 -.15 .97
7. Attitude Favorability 3.23 .30 .21 -.01 .36 .06 -.05 .04 .72
8. Control Location .49 .50
-.03 .06 .03 .41 .14 -.10 .02 --
9. Control Organization .65 .48 -.04 .10 -.14 .02 .01 .10 -.51 .05 --
10. Control Pedestrian Traffic 2.46 .74 .04 .02 -.01 .38 .47 -.15 .04 .24 -.14 --
Note: Display Rule is coded with neutral = 0 and positive = 1. All correlations above .16 are significant at the .05 level.
Table 2
Model estimated standardized path coefficients for control variables.
Endogenous Variable Control Variable Path
Coefficient
Expression Suppression Location .05
Organization .05
Traffic .03
Respondent Mood Location .06
Organization -.14
Traffic -.06
Persistence Location .35*
Organization .06
Traffic .30*
Avoidance Location .01
Organization .06
Traffic .48*
Attitude Favorability Location .04
Organization -.47*
Traffic -.03
Service Quality Location -.10
Organization .17*
Traffic -.09
Note: Location is a dummy coded variable referring to one of two places
where the polling took place; Organization is a dummy coded variable
referring to one of the two organizations sponsoring the poll; Traffic refers to
the amount of pedestrian traffic observed at the time of polling. * = p < .05
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