Employers, employees, and benefits providers recognize that experiences at work can affect employees’ quality of life outside of work.
This linkage has spawned workplace Employee Assistance Programs, on-site medical centers, concierges, meals, and fitness centers in the US.
When employees mask their true feelings in work situations, they engage in “surface acting” — displaying appropriate, but unfelt facial expressions, verbal interactions, and body language.
Surface acting at work was associated with emotional exhaustion, work-to-family conflict, and insomnia outside of work for more than 70 volunteers in a high stress public service occupation, according to Singapore Management University’s David T. Wagner, Christopher M. Barnes of University of Washington, and Brent A. Scott of Michigan State University.
“Emotional labor” was Arlie Hochshild’s earlier term for “surface acting” in customer service interactions when employees present prescribed verbalizations and emotions.
She contrasted “surface acting” with “deep acting” in which the person:
- Exhibits the emotion actually felt,
- Uses past emotional experiences to elicit real emotion and empathic connection with others, in a form of “organizational method acting.”
Surface acting can lead to occupational “burnout,” characterized by emotional exhaustion, detachment from others, and reduced workplace performance, noted University of California Berkeley’s Christina Maslach and Susan Jackson.
In contrast, high emotional labor with deep acting was associated with a greater sense of personal accomplishment in research by University of Regina’s Celeste Brotheridge and Alicia Grandey of Penn State.
Recipients of “surface acting” are usually accurately detect that it’s an inauthentic display, according to University of Tampere Veikko Surakka and Jari K Hietanen of University of Helsinki.
Similarly, “Facades of Conformity,” impression management, and
unwilling compliance are associated with generalized stress and reduced quality of life outside of work, according to Georgetown’s Patricia Hewlin, University of Lethbridge’s Karen H. Hunter, Andrew A. Luchak of University of Alberta, and Athabasca University’s Kay Devine.
- Facades of Conformity (FOC) involve behaviors enacted to appear that an employee embraces organizational values.
These behaviors usually are associated with non-participative work environments, minority status, and high self-monitoring.
Impression management, characterized by ingratiating behaviors in two-person relationships, can influence career outcomes, according to Georgia Tech’s Robert C. Liden and Terence R. Mitchell of University of Washington.
- Compliance, identified by publicly stating changed beliefs in response to external pressures, without modifying actual personal convictions, according to Leon Festinger.
Most people at work encounter situations in which they must behave in “appropriate” ways inconsistent with their true feelings, and may experience similar stress spillover from “surface acting” at work.
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