“There is no happiness at work!”: emotion management, inauthenticity, and psychological distress in the workplace
Sloan, Melissa Marie
Emotion management in the workplace—the control and expression of emotions in interactions with others―is required in many types of jobs. For example, in encounters with customers and clients, many workers must act cheerful and friendly, regardless of their true feelings. In addition, within the workplace, workers manage their emotions in order to act appropriately in interactions with coworkers and superiors. However, by concealing their true feelings and expressing false outward emotions, workers may suffer from feelings of inauthenticity and, in turn, experience psychological distress. Previous research suggests that these consequences vary by the worker’s status in the workplace hierarchy, occupation, self-concept, and attitude toward the emotion management that she performs. Using quantitative data from a mail survey of a random sample of 2,500 Tennessee state workers, I identify the conditions under which workers perform emotion management, the link between emotion management and psychological outcomes, how workers of varying statuses are differentially affected by emotion management, and the factors that affect the relationship between emotion management and distress. Whereas previous research has focused on occupational-level characteristics (e.g., service vs. non-service occupation), I find that job-level characteristics such as control over work, job complexity, and the amount of interaction a worker has with other people better predict the extent of a worker’s emotion management. In addition, workers who have higher status within the workplace perform less emotion management than those with lower levels of workplace status. Although the effects of emotion management at work are moderated by several factors―including a worker’s occupational prestige and self-concept orientation―my analyses reveal that, in general, emotion management has harmful consequences for the psychological well-being of workers because it increases feelings of inauthenticity and distress.