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Tschan Rochat Zapf Not only Clients JOOP 2005

Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (2005), 78, 195–220
q 2005 The British Psychological Society
Special section
It’s not only clients: Studying emotion
work with clients and co-workers with
an event-sampling approach
Franziska Tschan1*, Sylvie Rochat2 and Dieter Zapf3
University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Swiss Federal Statistical Office, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
A group of 78 young employees in service and non-service professions reported 848
task related interactions at work over 1 week using a variant of the Rochester
Interaction Record which measured emotion work requirements, emotional
dissonance, and deviance. Multi-level analyses showed that dissonance was more likely
in interactions with customers, whereas deviance, that is, the violation of display rules
by acting out one’s felt emotion, was more likely in co-worker interactions. Well-being
in the interaction was lower (a) for interactions with emotion work requirements,
(b) for dissonance, even after controlling for felt negative emotions, and (c) for
deviance. Negative emotion displayed partially mediated the relationship between
deviance and well-being. Regarding the relationship of more stable job related attitudes,
psychosomatic complaints, and aggregated scores of social interactions, fewer effects
were found than in questionnaire studies, which may be due to the fact that only
interactions that lasted at least 10 minutes were assessed, as is customary in research
with this instrument. Among the effects found, however, many involved proportions
rather than frequency of interactions, which raises the possibility of balancing and
legitimizing effects of non-stressful interactions.
Many work related interactions require employees to control their behaviour and the
display of their emotions (Hochschild, 1983). Examples include nurses who have to
show compassion towards a patient, teachers who explain the same thing to a student
over and over again in a friendly and patient way, but have to act in a severe and stern
manner if the same student engages in a fight with a classmate, or a salesperson who has
to stay calm and polite vis-à-vis an angry customer. The requirement to display specific
emotions in front of customers (or clients, patients, students, etc., cf. Gutek, 1995) and
to manage one’s own emotions to achieve the required display, has been described as
* Correspondence should be addressed to Franziska Tschan, University of Neuchatel, Groupe de Psychologie Applique,
Faubourg de l’Hopital, 2000 Neuchatel, Switzerland (e-mail: [email protected]).
Franziska Tschan et al.
emotional labour or emotion work (e.g. Grandey, 2000; Hochschild, 1983; Rafaeli &
Sutton, 1987; Zapf, 2002). Although emotion work is required because of its positive
effects for the organization, and because it may be a necessary part of accomplishing a
task, many researchers have identified unfavourable long-term consequences for those
who have to perform emotion work (e.g. Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002; Morris &
Feldman, 1997; Schaubroeck & Jones, 2000).
The requirement to display specific emotions in customer related and co-worker
Many everyday interactions are guided by norms and rules, and in many instances these
rules also include what emotions should be shown (Ekman & Friesen, 1969).
This implies that many of the emotions shown during interactions are in fact not felt, but
‘acted’, for example, if people try to disguise disappointment over a gift they do not like,
showing gratitude instead (Goffman, 1959; Hochschild, 1983). Display rules are
sometimes explicitly stated as role-expectations in organizations. For example, Disney
states its expectation as ‘first, we practice the friendly smile at all times with our guests
and among ourselves’, and employees at Disney are trained how to convey positive
emotions to Disney’s customers (Rafaeli & Sutton, 1987). Emotion display rules may also
ensue from professional norms, and may be part of professional training, for example, in
nursing, teaching professions, or law (Van Maanen & Kunda, 1989). Besides the rather
specific rules about how to behave in work-related interactions, more general, societal
norms exist. One of these is to be polite and friendly, and not to show rude or uncouth
behaviour in everyday interactions (Leary, 1996).
Emotion work as a job demand has been described and investigated mainly in servicerelated professions, such as nursing (Smith, 1992), supermarket cashiers (Rafaeli, 1989),
call centre agents (Grebner et al., 2003; Zapf, Isic, Bechtoldt, & Blau, 2003), but also bill
collectors (Sutton, 1991), and police officers (Martin, 1999). That emotion work may also
be an issue in interactions with colleagues and supervisors at work, and thus present in
non-service as well as service occupations, has been largely neglected. Actually, the
Disney example mentioned above explicitly states display rules among colleagues.
Standards about what emotions should be displayed, or even felt in interactions with
colleagues may well be part of the corporate culture. For example, Kunda and van Maanen
(1999) cite from a ‘corporate culture handbook’ that employees are expected to be
‘enthusiastic’, ‘enjoy doing what they are doing’, and ‘show commitment no matter what
it takes’ (1999, p. 68). Besides explicitly stated organizational norms, widely shared rules
about interactions between colleagues at work have been described. They include being
friendly and polite, not criticizing each other in public, and maintaining a courteous and
friendly attitude even with colleagues that are not liked (Argyle & Henderson, 1985).
The extension of the concept of emotion work to interactions with colleagues has been
recommended by several researchers. Steinberg (1999) suggested including emotion
work aspects into job evaluations for managerial positions. Grandey, Tam, and Brauburger
(2002) and Totterdell and Holman (2003) included both customer and colleague related
events. Note that arguing for the relevance of emotion work for interactions with
colleagues is not incompatible with the notion that emotion work may be more
frequently encountered in service professions. After all, in these professions, one has to
interact with both colleagues and clients. This study investigates emotion work and its
relationship to well-being in service as well in non-service professions in interactions with
customers and co-workers.
Emotion work in interactions at the workplace
Dealing with emotion work requirements: authenticity, dissonance and deviance
Emotion work requirements imply emotion display rules, which prescribe what
emotion should be shown in a given interaction. In general, displaying a specific
emotion is interpreted by the interaction partner as a sign that the person actually feels
the emotion shown. If the person actually feels and displays the emotion that is
required, one can talk of authenticity or emotional harmony (Ashforth & Humphrey,
1993). However, this is not always the case, as people sometimes fake emotions in order
to comply with norms and rules. Emotional dissonance has been described as a situation
when an employee is required to display an emotion that is not genuinely felt in the
particular situation (Hochschild, 1983; Zapf, Vogt, Seifert, Mertini, & Isic, 1999; Zerbe,
2000). Consider, for example, a salesperson dealing with a customer who is upset.
In such a situation, the salesperson may feel angry, but remains friendly: the salesperson
suppresses the display of the negative emotion, and ‘fakes’ the required, positive
emotion, thus actively regulating emotional expression (Zapf, Seifert, Schmutte, Mertini,
& Holz, 2001). Emotional dissonance is not restricted to expressing a positive emotion
while not feeling it, although this may be a typical configuration. Dissonance may also
imply suppressing positive or negative emotions if the requirement is neutral
(e.g. a doctor who announces a serious illness to a patient), or deliberately expressing
negative emotions, even if one does not feel them (e.g. scolding a child who has done
something dangerous). Several authors (e.g. Hochschild, 1983; Zapf, 2002) distinguish
different mechanisms related to dissonance, such as deep acting (trying to feel the
emotion required) or automatic regulation, if display of the emotion is part of the
professional identity, or if the interaction is so well scripted that the emotion display can
be routinized (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Briner, 1999). In this paper, we use the term
dissonance to describe interactions where a person expresses the emotion required by a
display rule, but does not feel that particular emotion, thus doing ‘surface acting’
(Hochschild, 1983).
A discrepancy between display rules and felt emotions may, however, also be dealt
with by deviating from the display rule and displaying the felt rather than the required
emotion, as when a waitress gives a bad sneer to customers after they told her how to do
her job (Hall, 1993). This has been described as emotional deviance (Rafaeli & Sutton,
1987). Emotional deviance can be due to a lack of self-control in a given situation if one
loses one’s temper, but it may also be that deviance is part of a strategy for interacting
with particular people, or is shown because the emotion display rule is not accepted in a
given situation (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993). Emotional deviance has often been
described as including the expression of negative emotions when a neutral or positive
requirement exists. However, other forms of deviance may also occur, for example
displaying positive emotions while the display rule prescribes neutral emotions.
Situational aspects of emotion work, dissonance or deviance
So far, emotion work has mostly been studied with regard to whole professions or with
regard to work constellations in general. Much less attention has been given to concrete
work-related interactions. However, emotion work requirements are at least partially
determined by situational characteristics (Côté, in press): although nurses have to be
friendly with all patients, they should be severe on finding out that a patient throws their
pills away. Martin (1999) observed that required emotional displays from police officers
differed as a function of situational aspects, robberies required aggressiveness, conflict
resolution required neutral emotions, and consoling an accident victim required
Franziska Tschan et al.
empathy. Thus, emotional display rules are contingent on the specific characteristics of
different situations (Sutton, 1991).
What determines if a person shows dissonance or deviance? A recent study by
Totterdell and Holman (2003) found that (a) the willingness to meet display obligations
and (b) the requirement to regulate negative affects predicted dissonance. They also
found that negative events led to more dissonance when they involved customers as
compared with co-workers. This latter finding could be a sign of a greater ‘display
latitude’ (Kruml & Geddes, 2000; Morris & Feldman, 1997; Wharton, 1993), or weaker
display rules (Morris & Feldman, 1996) in interactions with co-workers as compared
with customer-related interactions. In comparison to the often explicit and specific
rules about how to deal with clients, rules about interaction with co-workers may be less
specified, leaving more leeway for ‘violation’. Furthermore, even when ‘acting out’
emotions is perceived as a violation of rules, such violations may be easier to ‘repair’,
because interactions with colleagues are part of long-term relationships, which are
based not mainly on immediate, but on long-term reciprocity (Gutek, 1995). This allows
for a sort of compensation (e.g. by excuses later on, or by providing enjoyable
interactions), and this compensation may occur with quite some delay. Norms for longterm relationships may also specify behaviours quite opposite to those expected in
dealing with clients. Rules concerning relationships contain a requirement to be honest,
which implies the expectation that true emotions are shown (Argyle & Henderson,
1985). If the interaction partner realizes that emotions are faked, the intended effect of
dissonant behaviour may be reversed, as research on impression-management shows
(Giacalone & Rosenfeld, 1989).
Based on these considerations, we state the following hypotheses concerning the
prediction of dissonance and deviance in interactions with clients or colleagues:
Hypothesis 1.1 In interactions requiring emotion work (display rules), dissonance will be more
likely if the interaction partner is a client as opposed to a colleague.
Hypothesis 1.2 In interactions requiring emotion work, deviance will be more likely if the
interaction partner is a colleague as opposed to a client.
Effects of emotion work, dissonance or deviance on interaction quality
Conceptually, a central focus in the study of emotion work has been the long-term
consequences of emotion work, both for the organization and for the employees.
Emotion work requirements as such have been postulated, and found, to increase stress
symptoms, such as burnout, and to decrease well-being (Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002;
Grebner et al., 2003; Zapf et al., 1999). For example, Schaubroeck and Jones (2000)
found a positive relationship between the requirement to display positive emotions and
physical symptoms, even after controlling for age, gender, education, and negative
affectivity. With regard to job related attitudes as effects of emotion work requirements,
the evidence is mixed. Some studies found no relationship between emotion work and
job satisfaction (e.g. Zapf et al., 1999) but also associations between the requirement to
display positive emotions and enhanced well-being have been found (Adelmann, 1995;
Morris & Feldman, 1997). Insofar as emotion work requirements restrict the employee’s
latitude on how to manage interactions, it seems likely that it may have more negative
than positive consequences.
Emotional dissonance, however, shows a straightforward pattern in most studies.
In their case study on prison officers, Rutter and Fielding (1988) found that the need to
Emotion work in interactions at the workplace
suppress genuinely felt emotions was negatively correlated with job satisfaction, and
other studies yielded similar results (Dormann & Kaiser, 2002; Morris & Feldman, 1997).
Emotional dissonance has also been found to be related to symptoms of strain, such as
psychosomatic complaints, or irritability (e.g. Grebner et al., 2003), and depressed
mood (Erickson & Ritter, 2001). Most researchers consider emotional dissonance
the core element of stress caused by emotion work (e.g. Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002;
Zapf et al., 2001). Zapf et al. (1999) argue that complying with emotion work
requirements can be seen as a goal-directed action. If people can follow well rehearsed
scripts, the process can be automatized, without much regulation effort (Frese & Zapf,
1994; Zapf, 2002). However, emotional dissonance makes automatic regulation less
likely, and emotion management and faking the emotion may require additional effort
and a higher level of self-control, which has been found to be a limited resource
(Baumeister, Faber, & Wallace, 1999). Moreover, the literature on emotion regulation has
shown that the suppression of felt emotions is accompanied by heightened activity of
the sympathetic nervous system (Gross, 1998). It is associated with hypertension, self
reported negative health symptoms (King & Emmons, 1990), and exhaustion
(e.g. Grandey, 2003; Morris & Feldman, 1997; Zapf et al., 1999, 2001).
Emotional deviance is also likely to have negative consequences (Rafaeli & Sutton,
1987; Zerbe, 2000). Expressing not the required, but the felt emotion may be perceived
as a violation of interaction rules, and may contribute to unpleasant reactions of the
interaction partner. This is especially true if the emotion felt and shown is negative.
In addition, employees that show deviance may be punished by the organization, and/or
by clients. A salesperson who snaps back to customers may sell less and convey a bad
image of the organization, or an unfriendly waiter gets fewer tips (Crusco & Wetzel,
1984). Furthermore, deviance may be seen as unpleasant, and as a lack of self-control
also from the actor’s perspective, and thus be damaging to self-worth (Hall, 1993).
Although negative effects have been postulated for emotional deviance (Rafaeli &
Sutton, 1987; Zerbe, 2000), the effects of emotional deviance have not often been
examined empirically.
In most of the studies cited above, the effects of emotion work were conceived as
consequences of chronic strain caused by high frequency of emotion work
requirements, and emotional dissonance. Implicitly or explicitly, the idea that frequent
emotion work results in chronic strain rests on the assumption that emotion work must
have an immediate impact on the evaluation of the specific interaction. The theoretical
arguments for effects of emotion work are based on immediate effects occurring during
an interaction, and the long-term effects are in a way ‘extrapolated’ from this reasoning
(Rochat, 2004).
In this paper, we investigate interactions with emotion work requirements, and
assess the relationship of dissonance and deviance in such interactions with the
evaluation of the interaction. Investigating immediate effects of emotion work
requirements, dissonance, and deviance is necessary to understand the processes
involved and to substantiate the theoretical arguments that link emotion work to
potential long-term outcomes. Only a few studies have investigated emotion work on
the interaction level. For example, Totterdell and Holman (2003) studied emotion work
with an event sampling approach and showed that short term negative effects resulted
(emotional exhaustion) if emotions had to be faked. This study also sheds light on the
kind of emotions that typically are suppressed. In most dissonant interactions people
hide negative feelings and display positive or neutral emotions (Totterdell & Holman,
2003). We, therefore, assume that in most cases of emotional dissonance it is a positive
Franziska Tschan et al.
emotion that has to be faked, and a negative emotion that is actually felt. This is
important, because felt negative emotions have a large impact on the evaluation of an
interaction (Ostell, 1996). To the extent that this is true, many effects postulated for
dissonance may actually be due to negative emotions felt. In order to separate the effects
of dissonance as regulation effort from those of negative emotions felt during the
interaction, felt negative emotions should be controlled for.
Above, we presented arguments on why emotional deviance is also likely to be
related to a reduced quality of interactions. However, the effect of open display rule
violation may be different depending on the emotion actually displayed. If a negative
emotion is shown where a positive or neutral one is expected, this is likely to be more
disruptive for the interaction than if a positive emotion is shown instead of a negative or
neutral one (with, certainly the exception of very inappropriate display of positive
emotions, such as in sexual harassment). Consequently, such ‘positive deviance’ is less
likely to be related to decreased evaluation of an interaction than a ‘negative deviance’.
We, therefore, postulate that the relationship between deviance and evaluation of the
interaction is at least partially mediated by displayed negative emotions. Note that our
argument relates to emotions felt in the case of dissonance, but to emotions displayed in
the case of deviance. We state the following hypotheses with regard to the evaluation of
interactions, assessed by situational well-being during the interaction:
Hypothesis 2.1 Interactions with emotion work requirements are related to lower
situational well-being than interactions without emotion requirements,
Hypothesis 2.2 If, during an interaction with emotion work requirements, dissonance
is reported, well-being during the interaction is lower, even after negative emotions felt
is controlled for,
Hypothesis 2.3 If, in an interaction with emotion work requirements, deviance is
reported, situational well-being is lower,
Hypothesis 2.4 The relationship between deviance and situational well-being
is (partially) mediated by the display of negative emotions during the interaction.
Effects of emotion work interactions on job related attitudes and psychosomatic
While situational effects will depend on the characteristics of the situation, chronic
effects are likely to develop only if situations that evoke negative immediate effects
occur frequently. And, indeed, investigators typically relate the amount of emotion work
and the frequency of dissonance to the potential long-term effects (Grebner et al., 2003;
Morris & Feldman, 1996; Zapf, 2002). To the extent that the event-related data collected
constitute a sample of interactions that is representative for the frequency of emotion
work requirements, emotional dissonance and emotional deviance, relationships with
well-being similar to those described above should be found:
Hypothesis 3.1 The frequency of (a) interactions with emotion work, (b) dissonance,
and (c) deviance are related to lower job satisfaction, higher resigned attitude towards
one’s job and more psychosomatic complaints.
One could argue that strain caused by emotion work not only depends on the frequency
of emotion work, dissonance or deviance, but also depends on the proportion of
interactions with these characteristics. For example, if someone has only one client
Emotion work in interactions at the workplace
interaction a day, and that involves dissonance, this may be more stressful than having
one interaction involving dissonance plus nine interactions that do not. If the other
interactions are more pleasant, they may be regarded as a resource that counters the
effect of the one interaction that is stressful, implying a positive balance (see Hobfoll,
2001; Semmer, 2000). The (few) interactions that are stressful will then not be regarded
as indicating stressful working conditions overall, but rather as ‘normal’ instances of
problems that one considers inevitable in everyday life:
Hypothesis 3.2 A higher proportion of interactions with emotion work and
dissonance or deviance is related to lower job satisfaction, higher job resignation, and
more psychosomatic complaints.
Participants of this study were recruited from a larger, longitudinal study investigating
transition from professional training into work (Kälin et al., 2000). The selected
participants were interviewed, and they were asked to record, for 7 consecutive days, all
interactions at work and in private life that lasted 10 minutes or more. They also
received a questionnaire to complete.
From the overall sample of the grand study, 99 participants from the French part of
Switzerland were randomly recruited. They had to be working at least 8 hours per week,
and they had to have at least one colleague at work. Of the 99 participants interviewed
(data not reported here), 90 returned the questionnaire, and 78 also returned the
interaction records. These 78 participants constitute the sample of this study. Of the
participants, 48.7% were women, the mean age was 25 years (SD ¼ 3:2), they worked as
nurses (15 women and 5 men), sales and restaurant service (15 women and 12 men), in
clerical jobs (8 women and 10 men) or in technical jobs (e.g. technicians, watch-makers,
9 men). About 4.5 years before data collection (constituting the first measurement wave
of the grand project) all participants had successfully completed a professional training
(apprenticeship) lasting between 2 (sales) and 4 years (nurses, technicians). The
majority (78%) of the participants held a full time job, 3% worked less than half time, and
the rest worked between 50% and 90% of a full time job. Average job tenure was 2 years
and 10 months. As not all participants reported all types of interactions investigated, the
actual N may vary between analyses.
Diary measures
A variant of the Rochester Interaction Record method (RIR; Nezlek, Wheeler, & Reis,
1983) was used to gather information about daily interactions. Participants were asked
to fill in a sheet for every interaction that lasted 10 minutes or more during 7 consecutive
days. An interaction was defined as any encounter with one or more other persons in
which the interaction partners attended to one another and mutually adjusted their
behaviour (Wheeler & Nezlek, 1977). For each interaction, participants noted the date
and time of its beginning, its duration, and the other persons involved. In particular,
respondents indicated the gender of the interaction partner(s) and whether they were
co-workers, clients, friends, family members, romantic partners, or other. They also
Franziska Tschan et al.
indicated the type of interaction in terms of (a) task-related professional interaction
(e.g. a transaction with a customer, preparing a project with a colleague), (b) non-taskrelated interaction at work (e.g. chatting with colleagues), or (c) non work-related
private interaction (Tschan, Semmer, & Inversin, 2004). Participants described the
content of the interaction in a few words. They were further asked to indicate, on a five
point Likert-scale (1 ¼ very little, 5 ¼ to a great deal), how much in control they were
during the interaction, who initiated the interaction (other, mutual, self), and the degree
of intimacy in the interaction. Finally, they were asked to evaluate the interaction with
regard to satisfaction with the interaction and personal well-being during the
Emotion work requirements, emotional dissonance, and emotional deviance in an
interaction were assessed with three questions: (a) participants indicated whether there
was a requirement to display a specific emotion (positive, negative, neutral) or not,
(b) participants indicated what emotion they displayed during the interaction (positive,
negative or neutral), and (c) participants indicated what emotion they had actually felt
during the interaction (positive, negative or neutral). Emotion work requirement was
assumed if the participants indicated a requirement to display a specific emotion.
Emotional dissonance was assumed if participants displayed the emotion required but
indicated feeling another emotion. Emotional deviance was attributed to interactions in
which participants did not display the required, but another, felt emotion.
The 78 participants reported 2,534 interactions. Of these, 50% took place outside of
the work context, 16.5% were reported as being at work but in a non work-related
context, and 31.9% (848) were at work and covered work related topics. Only the latter
were included in the analyses. Ten participants did not report any task-related
interactions at work. The mean number of days the interactions record were returned
was 6.62 (SD ¼ 1:24). Of the participants, 72 filled out the interaction records during
7 consecutive days, three for 4 days, one for 2 days, and two for 1 day only. Due to
professions with shiftwork and other work arrangements, not all participants worked
five out of the 7 days, and not all participants worked standard 8 hour shifts a day.
To have a better estimate of interaction frequency, we calculated estimates of number of
interactions for an average 5 day, 40-hour work week, by weighting the number of work
related interactions reported by the number of working hours reported for each person
in the observation period.
Instructions and accuracy of reporting interactions
During the interview, participants received a one-to-one explanation of approximately
15 minutes about how to fill in the interaction records. Examples were given in order to
indicate which situations were not to be considered as interactions (e.g. sitting side by
side and watching television), and which situations were appropriate for reporting
(e.g. talking about the television programme). Participants filled in sample records in
presence of the researcher, received feedback, and questions were answered. They
were encouraged to fill in the self-observation sheet immediately after the interaction,
but at least twice a day. Participants were given seven envelopes and were asked to mail
in their brochures each day. They were given a reward for participating in the study
(50 Swiss Francs), and participated in a lottery. As in other diary research (Peeters, 1994;
Reis, Senchak, & Solomon, 1985), questions about accuracy and omission in reporting
were included after the self-observation period. Mean accuracy was reported to be 4.7
(SD ¼ 0:7), (1 ¼ very inaccurate, 7 ¼ very accurate). This indicates a moderate
Emotion work in interactions at the workplace
accuracy, but is comparable with results found in other studies (Peeters, 1994; Reis et al.,
1985). The participants guessed having omitted about 17.8% (SD ¼ 12:7) interactions.
This is higher than in other studies, where the percentage of omitted interactions is
between 5% and 10% for a student population (Reis & Wheeler, 1991) or a population of
elderly (10%; Nezlek, Richardson, Green, & Schatten-Jones, 2002), however closer to a
study where employees reported work-related interactions (12%; Peeters, 1994).
Questionnaire measures
The questionnaire contained questions about the participants’ work and personal
situation. Only scales used for analyses in this paper are reported. All scales were
translated into French either from German or English versions, and checked by backtranslation.
Individual characteristics
Participants indicated their gender, age, job tenure, profession, and whether they had
regular contact with clients. Each participant was then classified as working in a service
versus non-service job, based on the profession and contact with clients indicated.
The classification used corresponds to the distinction suggested by Zapf between
‘person-oriented-work’ and ‘object-oriented-work’ (Zapf, 2002). Cohen’s kappa of two
independent ratings was .73 (p , :01; Rochat, 2002). In case of disagreement the final
classification was obtained by a discussion between the raters. Negative affectivity was
assessed 6 months before the current study as part of the measures taken in the context
of the larger study (Kälin et al., 2000). We used a short version of the bipolar adjective
rating (Ostendorf, 1990; Schallberger & Venetz, 1999), based on the five-factor model of
personality (McCrae & Costa, 1987). Internal consistency of the scale was .83
(Cronbach’s alpha).
Psychological well-being was measured using the 16-item list of psychosomatic
complaints by Mohr (1991). People had to indicate to what extent they suffered
(1 ¼ almost never, 5 ¼ almost every day) from different physical symptoms
(e.g. headaches, back pain, dizziness). Cronbach’s alpha for the scale was .86. Job
satisfaction was measured with four items of the job satisfaction scale developed by
Baillod and Semmer (1994) on the basis of Oegerli (1984). Sample items are, ‘after days
off, I am really happy to return to work’, or ‘I am satisfied with my work’. Response
format is a Likert-scale ranging from 1 to 7. Cronbach’s alpha of the scale was .83.
Resigned attitude towards one’s job (four items) is based on the concept of ‘resigned job
satisfaction’ (Bruggemann, 1974) and taps a defensive or resentful adaptation to nonoptimal working conditions. A sample item is, ‘my job is not ideal, but it could be
worse’. Cronbach’s alpha for this scale was .78.
Multi-level models
To test hypotheses 1 to 3, multi-level regression analyses were performed, using the
MLwiN version 1.10 software package (Rasbash et al., 2000). Multi-level modelling is
a regression procedure for data with a hierarchical structure that estimates variance at
different levels of observation (in our case between and within persons). It takes into
account the non-independence of the observations, due to the hierarchical structure of
the data, and the unequal number of observations per person (Jones, 1993; Nezlek,
2003). Multi-level modelling has been suggested and used for data based on the RIR
(Nezlek, 2001, 2003). In the current study, Level 2 is the person level, and Level 1 the
social interactions.
Franziska Tschan et al.
To test Hypotheses 2 and 3, we first calculated a null or unconditional model,
including only the intercept and no explanatory variable. Other models including more
independent variables could then be compared with the null-model, and the increase in
fit could be assessed. It has been argued that a model-testing approach (i.e. first entering
control variables in the model and then adding independent variables, or estimating a
model entering all variables simultaneously), or a backward-stepping approach
(first enter all variables and then excluding those that are not significant) is not optimal
for multi-level analyses, as each additional variable in the model increases the number
of parameters estimated markedly, which may lead to estimation problems. Therefore,
a forward stepping procedure is advised (e.g. Nezlek, 2003, p. 463). We first entered
each of the control-variables on the person level separately, and excluded those that did
not reach conventional statistical significance levels. In a next step, each of the control
variables and the predictor variables on the interaction level were entered, and control
variables were removed from the model, if these were not significant. For building the
initial trimmed model, variables were estimated as fixed coefficients, and for the final
model, random errors terms were estimated for each variable. However, random error
terms were not retained in the model if their estimation did not lead to a significantly
better fit of the overall model. As suggested by several authors (e.g. Hox, 2002),
continuous predictors were centred around the grand mean. This allowed an easier
interpretation of the intercept, which then represents the mean level of the dependent
variable for an average value of the predictor.
To test Hypotheses 1.1 and 1.2, a multi-level binary-response model was calculated.
For the binary response models, again, a forward stepping strategy has been used,
including all control variables singly into the model, but only retaining significant
Control variables at the person level
On the person level, the gender of the participant was controlled for, because emotion
work has been assumed to be typical for ‘female’ jobs (Gutek, Cherry, & Groth, 1999).
In addition, several studies have found gender differences in the handling and effects of
dissonance (Kruml & Geddes, 2000; Totterdell & Holman, 2003). Type of job (service vs.
non-service) was controlled for because emotion work has been labelled a typical
working condition of service professions (e.g. Leidner, 1999). Negative affectivity was
controlled for because it has been found to be related to evaluative judgments, both on a
general level (e.g. job satisfaction) and on a situation level (e.g. Diefendorff & Richard,
Control variables on the situation level
Studies using the RIR methodology have found differences related to the sex
composition in the interaction (Reis et al., 1985; Wheeler, Reis, & Nezlek, 1983), so
‘same gender interaction’ and ‘opposite-gender interaction’ were included as a control
variables (reference category was ‘mixed gender interactions’). Rafaeli (1989) stressed
the importance of control over the interaction and described several strategies cashiers
used to keep or regain control. Control can be seen as a general need (Seligman, 1975),
and a higher control during the interaction makes it easier to steer and influence
the interaction according to own goals and needs, thus most likely influencing
the evaluation of the interaction (Grebner, Elfering, Semmer, Kaiser-Probst, &
Schlapbach, 2004; Nezlek et al., 2002). We, therefore, included felt control in the
interaction as a control variable.
Emotion work in interactions at the workplace
Work related interactions and emotion work
To provide some context of emotion work observed in work-related interactions, we first
report descriptive analyses based on the diary data. Participants reported an average of
11.54 (SD ¼ 11:34) work related interactions lasting 10 minutes or more (weighted for a
5 day, 40-hour regular working week). Significantly more interactions with colleagues
(M ¼ 7:41, SD ¼ 6:9) than with clients (M ¼ 3:52, SD ¼ 5:63) were reported,
tð74Þ ¼ 5:45, p , :001, and participants in service professions reported more
interactions with clients (M ¼ 4:63; SD ¼ 6:31) than participants in non-service
professions (M ¼ 1.18; SD ¼ 2:67), tð72:5Þ ¼ 3:33, p , :001. However, participants in
service professions also reported a higher number of interactions with colleagues
(M ¼ 8:69, SD ¼ 7:81) than participants in non-service professions (M ¼ 4.86,
SD ¼ 3:43), tð72:8Þ ¼ 3:10, p , :01.
The proportions of interactions with display rules (emotion work requirement) were
estimated using a binary-response multi-level procedure (second order linearization,
penalized quasi-likelihood [PQL] estimation; Goldstein & Rashbash, 1996). Based on
these analyses, 49.7% of all work related interactions had a display rule. Display rules
were more often reported for interactions with clients (88.8%), but were also present in
interactions with co-workers (31%; p , :05). Participants in service professions
reported a higher percentage of emotion work requirements (57.4%) than those in nonservice professions (32%; p , :05); this is due to the higher proportion of client
interactions in service professions.
Dissonance and deviance in client and co-worker related interactions
As described above, emotional dissonance is given if a person displays the required
emotion, but does not feel it. Of the recorded interactions, 83 involved dissonance.
As can be expected, for most of these interactions, a positive display rule was present.
In 35 (42.2%) interactions a negative emotion was felt while a positive displayed, in 39
(47.0%) interactions the emotion felt was neutral. A single interaction was reported
where a positive emotion was felt, but a neutral display rule followed, and eight
interactions involved neutral emotion shown but negative emotion felt. No dissonant
interactions with negative display rules were reported.
Deviance was described as not showing the emotion required by the display rule.
Of the 79 interactions including deviance, 47 (61.8%) had a requirement to display
a positive emotion, four (5.2%) a negative display rule, and 25 (32.8%) a neutral display
We hypothesized that deviance would be more likely if the interaction partner was a
colleague (H1.1), whereas dissonance would be more likely in interactions with clients
(H1.2). These hypotheses were tested using multi-level analyses. We used a forward
stepping strategy described in the analyses section. Control variables tested at the Level
2 (person) were gender of the participant, service versus non-service profession, and
negative affectivity; control variables tested at Level 1 (interactions) were same,
opposite, and mixed gender composition, dyadic versus group interactions,
and perceived control during the interaction. Level 1 predictor variable was the
type of interaction partner (colleague or client); dependent variables were the
proportion of dissonance (H1.1) and deviance (H1.2). As the dependent variables are
dichotomous, a binary response model was calculated, using a second order PQL
estimation. In non-linear models, values taken by the fixed effects are difficult to
Franziska Tschan et al.
interpret. Rasbash et al. (2000) suggest interpreting the intercept as well as the increase
of a proportional response (in this case, the proportion of deviant or dissonant
interactions when emotion work is required), after adding predictors. This is calculated
by working out the antilogit function of the estimated values (Rasbash et al. 2000). The
analyses revealed that none of the control variables had a statistically significant
influence on the proportion of dissonant or deviant interaction. Based on the
unconditional model including 462 work related interactions with display rules, the
percentage of dissonance (16.9%) and deviance (15.9%) on all interactions with display
requirements was very similar. However, dissonance was more likely in interactions
with clients (24.2%) than with colleagues (12.9%; p , :05, based on the Wald test),
whereas deviance was more likely in interactions with colleagues (21.1%) than with
clients (12.9%; p , :05). The results are in accordance with Hypotheses 1.1 and 1.2.
Situational evaluation of interactions
The next block of hypotheses concerns the immediate evaluation of an interaction.
We asked participants to evaluate both satisfaction with the interaction and personal
well-being during the interaction. Satisfaction with the interaction and well-being during
the interaction showed a very high correlation (r ¼ :795; p , :01). Although all analyses
were performed with each of the variables, only results for well-being are presented in
this section, as analyses including satisfaction yielded very similar results, both in terms
of what variables show significant relationships as well as with regards to predictor
estimates. We first report results based on whether a requirement to display an emotion
was present in the interaction (H2.1), then results evaluating relationships with
dissonance (H2.2) and deviance (H2.3) in interactions.
Emotion work requirements
We hypothesized (H2.1) that well-being in the interaction would be lower for
interactions requiring emotion work. This was tested using multi-level modelling,
applying the model building strategy described above. To test for serial dependencies,
a term for the first-order lag (the previous value in the time series) on the dependent
variable was included. In Table 1, the unconditional model, as well as the final model is
reported. Non-significant control variables at Level 2 were sex of the participant, and
service versus non-service profession. Non-significant control variables tested at Level 1
were same and opposite-sex interactions (as compared with mixed-sex interactions),
interaction partner (client vs. colleague), dyadic versus group interactions, and lag1
well-being. Table 1 shows that emotion work requirements were associated with lower
well-being in the interaction. Negative affectivity also lowered well-being, and felt
control during the interaction was related to higher well-being. The trimmed model
yields a significantly better fit than the unconditional model (p , :001), thus supporting
Hypothesis 2.2 stated that experiencing dissonance would lower situational well-being
in the interaction, even after controlling for negative emotions felt during the
interaction. The results of the corresponding multi-level analyses, displayed in Table 2,
show indeed that negative emotion felt had the biggest negative impact on well-being in
the interaction. In fact, having a negative emotion lowered well-being more than one
point on a 5-point scale. However, as expected, dissonance still showed a negative
relationship with situational well-being after controlling for negative emotion felt,
Emotion work in interactions at the workplace
Table 1. Requirement to display an emotion and situational well-being in interactions
Fixed effects
Level 2
Level 1
Random effects
Model fit
Negative affectivity
Emotion work requirement
VAR Level 2
VAR Level 1
VAR control
VAR requirement
COV intercept/control
COV intercept/requirement
COV control/requirement
*2 loglikelihood
Note. Based on 848 work related interactions. Parameter estimates are unstandardized coefficients,
numbers in brackets are standard errors. The dependent variable is well-being in the interaction, rated
on a scale from 1 to 5, higher numbers indicate better well-being. VAR ¼ Variance; COV ¼
Covariance; *p , :05.
Table 2. Emotional dissonance and situational well-being in interactions
Fixed effects
Level 2
Level 1
Random effects
Model fit
Negative affectivity
Negative emotion felt
VAR Level 2
VAR Level 1
VAR control
VAR dissonance
VAR negative emotion
COV intercept/control
COV intercept/dissonance
COV intercept/negative
emotion felt
COV control/dissonance
COV control/ negative
emotion felt
COV dissonance/negative
emotion felt
*2 loglikelihood
2.008 (.012)
.003 (.026)
Note. Based on 848 work related interactions. Parameter estimates are unstandardized coefficients,
numbers in brackets are standard errors. The dependent variable is well-being in the interaction, rated
on a scale from 1 to 5, higher numbers indicate better well-being. VAR ¼ Variance; COV ¼
Covariance; *p , :05.
Franziska Tschan et al.
indicating that the negative impact of dissonance could not be entirely explained by
negative emotions felt. The trimmed model has a significantly better fit than the
unconditional model ( p , :001).
It was hypothesized (H2.3) that deviance during the interaction was related to lower
situational well-being. We also expected that negative emotion shown in the interaction
would act as a (partial) mediator between deviance and well-being (H2.4). Again, these
hypotheses were tested using multi-level modelling (see Table 3). To assess the
mediating role of negative emotions shown on the relationship between deviance and
satisfaction or situational well-being, we followed Baron and Kenny’s (1986) three step
procedure. The strength of the indirect effect can be assessed by the Sobel test
(Sobel, 1982; Preacher & Hayes, 2004). This test is also recommended in multi-level
modelling (Krull & MacKinnon, 1999).
Table 3 shows the unconditional model, the model entering significant control
variables and deviance, as well as the model adding negative emotion displayed as an
additional predictor. Fig. 1 shows the unstandardized coefficients between deviance,
negative emotion displayed and well-being in the interaction. The mediation was only
partial, as the direct path between deviance and satisfaction remained significant
(Sobel test ¼ 2 2.32, p , :05). These results support Hypothesis 2.3, and partially
support Hypothesis 2.4.
Additional analyses
We tested for all cross-level interactions including dissonance or deviance. None yielded
a significant result.
Relationship with job satisfaction, job resignation and psychosomatic complaints
Hypotheses 3.1 and 3.2 refer to the relationship of interaction between characteristics,
job attitudes, and well-being, operationalized as job satisfaction, resigned attitude
towards one’s job, and psychosomatic complaints. Interaction-related variables were
aggregated for these analyses. Means, standard deviations and intercorrelations between
study variables are presented in Table 4.
Control variables
As the sample was too small to run regression analyses with many predictors, we chose
the following procedure to limit the number of variables included into the models to the
necessary minimum: in a first step, we examined the influence of the three control
variables (gender, service vs. non-service profession, and negative affectivity) on each of
the dependent variables (job satisfaction, job resignation, psychosomatic complaints).
The results are presented in Table 5. We then included only significant control variables
into the regression models. Thus, profession and negative affectivity were included for
job satisfaction and job resignation. No control variable was included for psychosomatic
To test Hypotheses 3.1 and 3.2, separate hierarchical regression analyses with job
satisfaction and resigned attitude towards one’s job were performed. For psychosomatic
complaints, bivariate correlation coefficients were calculated, as none of the control
variables was significant, and regression coefficients were identical to correlation
coefficients. Table 5 displays the results.
Model fit
Level 2
Level 1
Negative affectivity
Negative emotion displayed
Variance Level 2
Variance Level 1
VAR control
VAR deviance
COV control/intercept
COV deviance/intercept
COV deviance/control
COV NEGD/intercept
COV NEGD/contro
COV NEGD deviance
*2 loglikelihood
3.938 (.058)*
Unconditional model
2 .011(.016)
2 .081(.068)
2 .028(.037)
2 .197(.089)*
2 .726(.144)*
Trimmed model
.174 (.128)
2 .038(.093)
2 .056(.029)
2 .198(.086)*
2 .475(.124)*
2 .488(.083)*
Model including negative
emotion displayed
Note. Based on work related interactions. Parameter estimates are unstandardized coefficients, numbers in brackets are standard errors. The dependent variable is
well-being in the interaction, rated on a scale from 1 to 5, higher numbers indicate better well-being. VAR ¼ Variance; COV ¼ Covariance; *p , :05.
Random effects
Fixed effects
Table 3. Emotional deviance and situational well-being in interactions
Emotion work in interactions at the workplace
Franziska Tschan et al.
Figure 1. Mediation model.
Note. Numbers are unstandardized coefficients, with standard errors in brackets. The coefficient of the
direct path between deviance and well-being is displayed in italics.
Hypothesis 3.1 stated that the frequency of episodes involving emotion work as well as
the frequency of emotional dissonance and emotional deviance with colleagues and
clients should be related to lower job satisfaction, higher job resignation, and higher
psychosomatic complaints. There were no effects for resigned attitude to one’s job, or for
job satisfaction. However, the number of interactions requiring emotion work with
colleagues, and more deviant or dissonant interactions with colleagues were related to
more psychosomatic complaints.
H3.2 repeated H3.1 with regard to proportions rather than frequencies. As shown in
Table 6, the hypothesis was not supported with regard to job satisfaction. However, a
higher proportion of emotion work in client interactions was related to higher job
resignation. In the same vein, a higher proportion of dissonance, and, as a trend, a higher
proportion of deviance in interactions with colleagues was related to higher resignation.
With regard to psychosomatic complaints, a higher proportion of deviance in
interactions with colleagues was related to more psychosomatic complaints, though not
quite statistically significantly.
The present study contributes to the understanding of emotion work in daily workrelated interactions. By focusing on interactions as they occur, it helps to shed light on
hitherto widely neglected aspects of emotion work.
Clients and co-workers
The assumption that emotion work requirements are not restricted to clients but exist
for interactions with co-workers as well was supported by the data. Interestingly,
compared with participants in non-service professions, those in service professions
reported not only more interactions with clients but also with co-workers. In addition,
they reported more emotion work requirements in interactions with co-workers (44% of
all interactions with co-workers) than did people in non-service occupations (19%).
This possibly reflects different cooperation requirements in these professions, or
a perception of more emotion work requirements in general.
In light of our results, the special attention service jobs have received in research on
emotion work seems justified, although the reason for this attention is only partly
6.21 9.72
1.02 1.67
.83 1.21
2.66 .36
4.85 1.15
2.70 1.01 2.054
Note. þ p , :10, *p , :05, **p , :01.
Weighted number of work related interactions.
Based on aggregated data N ¼ 69 – 78.
1. Gender 0 ¼ male,
1 ¼ female
2. Occupation 0 ¼ nonservice, 1 ¼ service
3. Negative affectivity
4. Job satisfaction
5. Resigned attitude
towards one’s work
6. Psychosomatic
7. # of interactions with
emotion work (display
8. # of interactions with
9.# of interactions with
10. # of persons present in
11. felt control during the
12. satisfaction with the
13. well-being during
.223 þ
.203 þ
2 .001
.202 þ
.228 þ
2 .006
2 .234 þ
2 .323**
2 .037
2 .101
2.369** 2.109
.212 þ
2.321** 2.033
2 .262*
2 .671**
2 .399**
Table 4. Means, standard deviations and correlations between study variables aggregated to person level
2 .136
2 .031
2 .032 .096
2 .038 .207 þ
.281* 2 .027
Emotion work in interactions at the workplace
Franziska Tschan et al.
Table 5. Regression analyses of satisfaction, resigned attitude towards one’s job and psychosomatic
complaints on control variables
Gender (0 ¼ male)
Profession (0 ¼ non-service)
Negative affectivity
R2 adjusted
Job satisfaction
Job resignation
psychosomatic complaints
2 .266*
Note. N ¼ 70, *p , :05, **p , :01 ***p , :001.
correct. It is correct in that service work is, indeed, ‘people work’ (Brotheridge &
Grandey, 2002); it is not correct in that this people work refers not only to clients
(which is the focus of most studies) but to a considerable degree also to co-workers.
Authenticity, dissonance and deviance
Our data show that in about 85% of the interactions with emotion requirements,
participants experienced authenticity: they felt the emotions they were required to
display, or at least they had developed such a routine in displaying it that they did not
experience any dissonance. Interestingly, differences in the likelihood of dissonance and
deviance were small, but deviance was more likely when the interaction partners were
colleagues, and dissonance was more likely when they were clients. We had anticipated
this result, because rules of relationships are different for interactions with colleagues
than with clients (Argyle & Henderson, 1985). In particular, display rules may be less
strict for colleagues than customers. For example, prosocial behaviour in organizations
(so-called organizational citizenship behaviour) is discretionary, and not explicitly
recognized by the formal reward system of the organization (Organ & Paine, 1999),
whereas for interactions with customers, very explicit rules and expectations often
exist. Second, the perceived time-span of the relationships is different (Gutek, 1995).
In short encounters, which are typical for many employee-customer exchanges, the
immediate affective tone is important; in longer lasting relationships (typical among
co-workers), judgments of appropriateness and fairness are likely to be ‘averaged’ across
a number of encounters, which allows for compensatory behaviour. All this may
contribute to a higher proportion of deviance in co-worker interactions. Recent studies
in another field are in accordance with this reasoning. Perrez and colleagues studied
‘display rules of social coping’, referring to rules that specify when coping is potentially
dysfunctional for social relationships (e.g. being tense with others when stressed).
They found that socially dysfunctional coping was more often found in conflict
situations with family members than with interaction partners outside of the family.
They interpret this as an indication of more lenient display rules in closer relationships
(e.g. Perrez, Wilhelm, Schoebi, & Horner, 2001). This conclusion is supported by a study
of Bongard and al’Absi (2003) in which the suppression of anger was higher at work
whereas the expression of anger was higher in the family.
Effects of emotion work have mostly been studied in terms of chronic and long-term
effects. Conceptually, these studies have stable variables, which they tend to conceive as
‘independent’ (e.g. emotional dissonance) and dependent (e.g. well-being) variables.
Such stable characteristics must, however, be made up of many episodes that involve
Emotion work in interactions at the workplace
Table 6. Regression analyses on job resignation, job satisfaction, psychosomatic complaints
Job resignation1
Predictor variable
Predictor variable
Predictor variable
# interactions with emotion-work requirements
# interactions with dissonance
# interactions with deviance
# interactions w. emotion-work requirements
# interactions with dissonance
# interactions with deviance
% interactions with emotion-work requirements
% interactions with dissonance
% interactions with deviance
%interactions w. emotion-work requirements
% interactions with dissonance
% interactions with deviance
# interactions with emotion-work requirements
# interactions with dissonance
# interactions with deviance
# interactions w. emotion-work requirements
# interactions with dissonance
# interactions with deviance
% interactions with emotion-work requirements
% interactions with dissonance
% interactions with deviance
% interactions w. emotion-work requirements
% interactions with dissonance
% interactions with deviance
# interactions with emotion-work requirements
# interactions with dissonance
# interactions with deviance
# interactions w. emotion-work requirements
# interactions with dissonance
# interactions with deviance
% interactions with emotion-work requirements
% interactions with dissonance
% interactions with deviance
% interactions w. emotion-work requirements
% interactions with dissonance
% interactions with deviance
DR2 second step
2 .152
2 .039
2 .014
.283 þ
.071 þ
job satisfaction1
DR2second step
2 .026
2 .058
2 .067
2 .078
2 .029
2 .072
2 .089
2 .192
2 .072
psychosomatic complaints2
2 .056
2 .044
.221 þ
Note. N varies between 39 and 75. þ p , :10, *p , :05, **p , :01.
The control variables in the first step include profession and negative affectivity.
Bivariate correlation, one-tailed.
All calculations including proportions based on arcsine-transformed variables (Fleiss, 1981).
Franziska Tschan et al.
emotion work, and associations with well-being should be found in such situations
(Rochat, 2004). The results of this study indicate that emotion work requirements,
dissonance and deviance are all associated with lower situational well-being,
independent of whether the interaction partner was a co-worker or a client.
Furthermore, in this study, we separated the effects of felt negative emotions from
the effect of dissonance. This is an important aspect, as many dissonant interactions
actually involve negative felt emotions (Totterdell & Holman, 2003), thus leading to
potentially confounded effects. Our results show that the largest impact on situational
well-being is due to felt negative emotions during the interaction. Even after controlling
for felt negative emotions, however, dissonance further reduces well-being in the
interaction. This indicates that dissonance is by itself a source of stress.
The straining aspect of dissonance may be different from the strain due to deviance.
According to the model of Zapf (2002), dissonance requires quite some regulation
effort, which has been found to be a source of stress in many studies (Semmer, 2003;
Semmer, Zapf, & Dunckel, 1995). In deviance, people show the felt emotion, despite the
rules. If deviance is not voluntary, they may experience a lack of self-control
(Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994), which may be detrimental to one’s self-image.
It has been argued that deviance could be positive in the sense that it represents less
strict rules and a higher control over the situation (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993).
However, acting out one’s negative emotions often does not result in better well-being
but rather stirs negative emotions. Apart from the immediate effect on the actor’s
emotions, however, the more negative evaluations of interactions involving deviance
may be due to its effect on the ongoing transaction between the partners. Specifically,
acting out negative emotions may not be appreciated, and may trigger unpleasant
behaviour by the interaction partner. A mediation analysis revealed a partial mediation
of displaying negative emotions. This implies that well-being is also lower when positive
or neutral emotions are displayed in a deviant way.
Perceived control during the interaction was related to higher well-being. This is in
accordance with many studies that find control as a general aspect of working
conditions related to lower strain (Karasek & Theorell, 1990; Semmer, 2000). Grebner
et al. (2004) demonstrate how control as a stable condition influences coping success in
stressful situations. Rafaeli (1989) has stressed the importance of situational control in
interactions with clients. One would, therefore, expect an interaction effect between
control, aspects of emotion work, and situational well-being, similarly to the classic
studies of situational control of Glass and Singer (1972). However, such an interaction
effect could not be found in this study. Nevertheless, the main effect of control does
underscore the positive implications of controllability for well-being in interactions.
Job-related attitudes and psychosomatic complaints
Only a few effects on job-related attitudes and psychosomatic complaints were found in
this study. In particular, job satisfaction was not related to the number, or proportion of
interactions with emotion work requirements, dissonance, or deviance. Of course, the
sample for these analyses is rather small and may lack power. Nevertheless, some other
relationships were found, and these are interesting in two regards, concerning (1) the
issue of client versus co-worker, and (2) the issue of frequency versus proportions.
Of the eight relationships found (see Table 6), six refer to co-workers, and only two to
clients. With all due caution that is appropriate in such a small sample, these results
underscore the importance of interactions with co-workers as part of emotion work.
Emotion work in interactions at the workplace
Of the eight effects found, five refer to proportions, and three to frequency. The fact
that some effects were found for the proportion measure highlights the need for a more
thorough consideration of the meaning of proportions versus frequencies in this type of
study. Proportions may indicate that a certain number of aversive interactions may be
compensated by enjoyable ones, and/or that a certain percentage of difficult
interactions are seen as ‘normal’, and, as such, as legitimate (see also Semmer,
McGrath, & Beehr, 2005).
The absence of relationships with stable variables is in contradiction to the findings
in this area, notably with regard to dissonance. Apart from the small sample, this may be
due to the particular method used, which includes only interactions of 10 minutes or
longer. In fact, in some of the professions studied (e.g. sales), the typical interaction with
a customer may be well shorter than 10 minutes. This leads to an omission of reporting
of many, if not most, customer-related interactions.
Assessing emotion work with event-sampling methods
Emotion work has been investigated typically with two methods: ethnographic and
questionnaire studies. By using the RIR methodology, our study complements
questionnaire studies by gathering data about specific interactions. This sheds light
on short term effects of emotion work with regard to the quality of the interaction, and
thus helps to bridge the gap between daily experiences, their overall perception, and
their potential long-term effects. A second advantage of our assessment lies in the
modification of the RIR to include a very precise operationalization of emotion work
requirements, aspects of dissonance, and, especially, deviance (Rochat, 2004).
The situational specificity of display rules can thus be taken into account. Furthermore,
dissonance and deviance could be calculated from the answers given, rather than
requiring a judgment by the participants. To our knowledge, not many researchers have
actually attempted to measure deviance in emotion work (for an exception, see Zerbe,
2000). By showing that it does influence well-being in the situation, and that this
influence is on top of that of negative emotions, our results underscore the necessity to
include deviance in further studies of emotion work.
However, the methodology chosen also has disadvantages. Participants were asked
to report interactions of 10 minutes or more. The 10 minutes criterion had been
suggested by the developers of the method in order to avoid overburdening the
participants and to enhance compliance (Reis & Wheeler, 1991), thus is a trade off
between loss of data and loss of participants. This may be an especially important
problem for emotion work interactions, as many interactions with clients or co-workers
will probably not last 10 minutes. It limits the generalization of the frequency of emotion
work interactions, and the comparison of the number of interactions with clients and
colleagues. A time-sampling instead of event-sampling strategy, as for example used by
Totterdell and Holman (2003) could be chosen in order partially to overcome this
Emotion work and its effects are likely to remain important topics. Our research
suggests (1) that emotion work is not only important in client-related interactions, but
also in interactions with co-workers, (2) that many of the effects found with measures
that assess stable conditions can also be found with situational measures, as emotion
work requirements, dissonance, and deviance significantly lower the quality of
interactions, and (3) that, in addition to dissonance, which has received most attention,
deviance should be a focus in future research.
Franziska Tschan et al.
This research was supported by Grant # 5004-058452 of the Swiss National Science Foundation.
We wish to thank Norbert Semmer; University of Berne; Joseph E. McGrath, University of UrbanaChampaign, John Nezlek, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, as well as two anonymous
reviewers for their advice and helpful suggestions.
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