Ronald H. Humphrey, Department of Management, School of Business, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA
Jeffrey M. Pollack, Department of Management, School of Business, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA
Thomas Hawver, Department of Management, School of Business, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA
Purpose – This paper seeks to argue that leaders perform emotional labor whenever they display emotions in an attempt to influence their subordinates' moods and motivations.
Design/methodology/approach – This is a conceptual paper that integrates the literature on leadership with the research on emotional labor.
Findings – This paper develops 15 propositions that distinguish emotional labor performed by leaders from that performed by front-line service workers.
Research limitations/implications – The paper suggests that leading with emotional labor is a fruitful research topic, and that considerable research could be done in this area.
Practical implications – Instead of conducting business in a non-emotional, “business-like manner”, leaders would benefit by expressing their emotions in the workplace. Emotionally expressive leaders are more charismatic and are better motivators.
Originality/value – This is the first paper to develop a theoretical model that describes how leaders perform emotional labor; thus the propositions are original.
Leadership; Emotional intelligence.
Journal of Managerial Psychology
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
For decades, management scholars recommended that executives follow Weber's advice to keep emotions out of the work place and to practice “administrative rationality” (Ashforth and Humphrey, 1995). If emotions were discussed at all, it was primarily in terms of how they interfered with rational decision-making or were part of interpersonal conflict. However, in the last decade, researchers and practitioners alike have begun to realize the benefits that come from recognizing the value of emotions in the workplace. Nevertheless, because strong emotions can have either positive or negative effects on performance, it is essential that leaders learn how to influence group members' emotional reactions. For example, Jordan et al. (2006) found that negative moods reduced team performance even when controlling for cohesion, task conflict, and workload sharing. In this paper, we argue that, in order to influence group members' emotions, leaders have to perform emotional labor.
Emotional labor has been conceptualized primarily as a duty of front line service employees (Ashforth and Humphrey, 1993; Ashkanasy and Daus, 2002; Brotheridge and Grandey, 2002; Morris and Feldman, 1996; Rafaeli and Sutton, 1987). Brotheridge and Grandey (2002) were among the few researchers who included managers in their study of emotional labor; they found that managers' frequency of performing emotional labor was higher than that of physical laborers and matched that of sales/service workers and human service workers. Brotheridge (2006b, p. 299) listed emotional labor in managers as one of the areas that needs additional study, and that scholars should examine: “the effect of managers' emotions on workers, or the impact of emotional expressiveness on managerial influence and leadership processes.” Thus, the main purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that emotional labor is an important and overlooked function performed by effective leaders.
We begin by defining emotional labor and related constructs such as emotion regulation, deep acting and surface acting. This guides us to our definition of leading with emotional labor. Next, we discuss the differences in the types of emotional labor performed by various types of service workers, and we compare and contrast the types of emotional labor performed by service workers with that performed by leaders. Then, we relate emotional labor and leadership to emotional contagion, and emotional expression to current leadership theories. These two sections explain the processes by which emotional labor influences leadership. We then discuss some of the research that demonstrates that emotional labor can be stressful for front-line service workers as a means of setting the stage for later discussions about whether leaders find emotional labor stressful. We then develop propositions that compare and contrast the emotional labor processes of leaders and front-line service providers. Although many effects may be the same, there are also reasons to expect considerable differences in the way that emotional labor affects leaders. These differences range from personality traits that distinguish leaders from followers to situational factors, such as the greater position power and autonomy enjoyed by leaders.
Emotional labor and surface and deep acting
Emotional labor was a term first coined by Hochschild (1979, 1983). She argued that service agents perform emotional labor when they express socially desired emotions as part of their job role. Perhaps the most common form of emotional labor consists of “service with a smile” encounters during which waiters and other service workers act friendly toward customers and clients (Pugh, 2001). Emotional labor is also performed in other settings, such as health care, where workers are expected to show sympathy or a variety of other emotions. Hochschild argued that organizations developed feeling rules that specified the emotions that employees should feel. However, Rafaeli and Sutton (1987) and Ashforth and Humphrey (1993) argued that these organizational rules should more accurately be called display rules because they referred to observable behaviors (emotional expressions) rather than to unobservable internal feelings. These observable emotional displays are likely to have the biggest influence on customers, or, when performed by leaders, on subordinates and coworkers. Nonetheless, Ashforth and Humphrey (1993) and other scholars who used the term display rules recognized that, in order to display the appropriate emotions, employees might have to regulate their internal emotional states as well.
Hochschild (1979, 1983) described two ways in which employees alter their emotional expressions. When employees change their outward emotional expressions but do not attempt to feel the emotions that they are displaying, they are practicing surface acting. In contrast, when they attempt to actually feel the emotions they want to display, they are practicing deep acting. In addition, Ashforth and Humphrey (1993) argued that employees also perform emotional labor in a third way, namely, through spontaneous and genuine emotion. Diefendorff et al. (2005) demonstrated that the expression of naturally felt emotions is an effective form of emotional labor. Hochschild's research, along with much of the work on emotional labor, focused on the stressful and harmful psychological effects of being forced to comply with organizational display rules (see Bono and Vey (2005), for a recent quantitative review).
Ashforth and Humphrey (1993) also theorized that surface acting and deep acting may have harmful psychological effects, but believed that this may depend on the degree to which the actor identifies with his or her role and occupation. Their third proposition stated:
If emotional labor is consistent with a central, salient, and valued social and/or personal identity (or identities), it will lead to enhanced psychological wellbeing (Ashforth and Humphrey, 1993, pp. 100-101).
In their fourth proposition, they stated:
If emotional labor is inconsistent with a central, salient, and valued social and/or personal identity (or identities), it will lead to emotive dissonance and/or a loss of one's sense of authentic self (Ashforth and Humphrey, 1993, p. 101).Brotheridge and Lee (2002, p. 64) found that identification was negatively related to surface acting and depersonalization, and positively related to deep acting, authenticity, and personal accomplishment. Despite these positive findings, they also found that identification was positively related to emotional exhaustion. Their findings are particularly important because leaders are more likely to identify with their role. These studies suggest that performing emotional labor may have complex effects on leaders, both positive and negative.
Emotional labor may also be conceptualized in terms of its dimensions. Brotheridge and Lee (2003) developed the six faceted Emotional Labour Scale based on the theories of Hochschild (1983) and Morris and Feldman (1996). Their scale measures the “frequency, intensity and variety of emotional display, the duration of interaction, and surface and deep acting” (Brotheridge and Lee, 2003, p. 365). Although these dimensions were developed for service employees, they have been applied just as well to the type of emotional labor performed by leaders.
Table I illustrates some differences between the emotional labor performed by service workers and that done by leaders. Because the six faceted Emotional Labour Scale developed by Brotheridge and Lee (2003) is still relatively new, little research has been done to verify the differences among service workers on this dimensions, and almost none has been done for managers or other leaders (Brotheridge and Grandey, 2002). Thus, although we offer our best estimates as to what the cell entries should be, considerable research still needs to be done to verify these entries. The table will help guide our discussions throughout the paper.
Leading with emotional labor
Humphrey (2005, 2006) developed the phrase “leading with emotional labor” to refer to managers or other leaders who use emotional labor and emotional displays to influence the moods, emotions, motivations and performance of their subordinates or followers. Although followers and other subordinates are most likely to be influenced by observable emotional displays, leaders may have to engage in emotional labor in order to produce the right emotional expressions to motivate or influence their followers. We will use the phrase “leading with emotional labor” to refer to the whole process in which leaders use emotional displays to influence their followers (just as expectancy theory refers not only to the specific term expectancy, but also to related concepts like instrumentality and valence).
Leadership theorists have studied charisma and other forms of emotional expressiveness (Kellett et al. 2006; Mio et al., 2005); this research shows the importance of emotional expressiveness to leadership. However, these leadership theories, unlike the theories of emotional labor, have generally not considered the psychological effects on the leaders of having to display appropriate emotions – emotions they may not actually be feeling. The literature on emotional labor suggests that this is not a simple process for leaders. In the following sections, we will examine the similarities and differences between leaders and service workers in their use of emotional labor and emotional displays.
Types of emotions expressed by leaders and service workers
Generally speaking, emotional labor has been studied among three types of service workers:
- customer service jobs;
- caring professions; and
- social control jobs.
In customer service jobs, emotional display rules generally require “service with a smile” (Pugh, 2001; Rafaeli and Sutton, 1987; Van Dijk and Kirk-Brown, 2006). These jobs generally require the expression of friendly, positive emotions that many people enjoy expressing and experiencing, although sometimes the hectic work pace makes these displays difficult. In other words, the emotions that these employees are required to display are in themselves positive, but unpleasant working conditions and rude customers may sometimes mean that employees have to fake their emotional expressions. In caring professions, such as nursing, employees have to display emotions such as sympathy and concern that are associated with sad and stressful life events. Thus, these occupations often have high levels of burnout. The third category, social control, includes occupations such as police, bouncers, and bill collectors. As Sutton (1991) demonstrated in his study of bill collectors, the display norms in these industries may require the expression of anger or other emotions that are generally considered to be negative. Displaying these negative emotions to the right degree may be difficult, for example, displaying enough irritation or anger to get the customer to pay up, but not so much that the customer files a complaint. In general, the type of emotions that employees have to display varies by the type of service job.
Leaders may have to display a wide variety of emotions, ranging from friendliness, to sympathy and support, to anger. Thus, they must be able to display all of the emotions required by the three different types of service workers. Moreover, they have to use judgment about which emotion to display at a particular time. For example, when an employee comes in tardy, a leader may have to choose between showing sympathy for the employee's personal problems that caused the lateness and expressing stern disapproval. The decision regarding which emotion to display may be considerably more complicated than that of the typical service worker, who often has to display the same emotion in a repetitive fashion.
Our first proposition is as follows:
P1. Effective leaders will display a wide range of emotions, including friendliness, sympathy, and social control-type emotions; whereas service workers typically have to express a more limited range of emotions appropriate to their occupation. Moreover, leaders must exercise considerably more judgment about which emotions to portray compared to front line service workers.
Leaders as managers of others' emotions
Several studies have demonstrated that leaders have substantial influence over group members' moods and emotional states, and that this influence can either help or hinder employee performance. For example, three studies have shown that leaders can either increase or decrease subordinates' feelings of frustration. First, Pirola-Merlo et al. (2002) studied how negative workplace events, such as obstacles to performance, influenced the affective group climate and the performance of research and development teams. Their theoretical model was based on Affective Events Theory (AET; Weiss and Cropanzano, 1996; Weiss et al., 1999). According to AET, individuals have average mood levels that can be either depressed or elevated by positive or negative events at work. Perola-Merlo et al. (2002) argued that one of the functions of managers is to help their subordinates cope with the numerous negative events that occur in the workplace. Consistent with their model, they found that leaders with facilitative and transformational leadership styles helped subordinates overcome the mood damaging effects of workplace obstacles. Moreover, their path analysis found that these mood effects translated into increased performance.
A second study also found that leaders influenced subordinates' feelings of frustration and optimism (McColl-Kennedy and Anderson, 2002). Drawing on transformational leadership theory (Bass and Avolio, 1994), McColl-Kennedy and Anderson argued that one of the important functions of leaders was to instil feelings of optimism and to convince followers that challenging goals were obtainable. These researchers found that transformational leaders had strong positive effects on subordinates' feelings of optimism. Moreover, as in the first study, they found that these feelings of optimism strongly influenced employee performance.
A third study, by Pescosolido (2002), theorized that individuals who could manage the emotions of fellow team members would emerge as leaders. Pescosolido argued that leaders influenced group members' emotions in two ways. First, leaders have a better understanding of the appropriate response to workplace events, and they convey the correct response by role modeling the right emotional tone. Second, emergent leaders create shared emotional experiences that bond group members together and increase feelings of morale. Pescosolido used a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods to study 20 work groups. His results supported his model and also demonstrated that leaders needed to display confidence in order to help group members cope with frustrating events. These studies suggest the following propositions:
P2. Under conditions of ambiguity or uncertainty, group members look to leaders' emotional responses: leaders with optimistic emotional displays will increase group members' positive moods and feelings of confidence, whereas leaders with negative emotional displays will increase group members' negative moods and feelings of frustration.
P3. Group members' moods influence performance, with feelings of frustration lowering performance and feelings of optimism and confidence raising performance.
The role of emotional labor in managing others' emotions
As the preceding studies demonstrate, effective managers need to be able to display feelings of confidence and optimism especially when their employees are feeling frustrated by workplace obstacles. Leaders have to express optimism even when facing the same confidence-shattering crisis as the other group members. Luthans and Avolio (2003, p. 248) made a similar argument when they stated that:
[…] authentic leaders lead from the front, going in advance of others when there is a risk of doing so. They model confidence, hope, optimism, and resiliency, which inspire others to action (Luthans and Avolio, 2003, p. 248).
In many cases, leaders may have to display confidence (through surface acting) even when they are experiencing the doubts and worries of their group members. They may also attempt to use deep acting to bolster their own confidence and try to feel the emotions they want to portray. Even if the leaders do feel confident, they must also be able to display this confidence in a way that inspires their employees. Thus, part of the leader's job is to portray emotions that are not necessarily felt, in other words, to perform emotional labor. Considerable research has examined the role of emotional labor in service encounters (Ashforth and Humphrey, 1993; Ashkanasy and Daus, 2002; Brotheridge and Grandey, 2002; Morris and Feldman, 1996; Pugh, 2001; Rafaeli and Sutton, 1987). These studies have shown the difficulties that employees face while performing emotional labor, such as feeling stress and other negative psychological outcomes (e.g. Cote and Morgan, 2002; Van Dijk and Kirk-Brown, 2006). As previously mentioned, Brotheridge and Lee (2002) found that high identifiers had higher performance (i.e. personal accomplishment), but were also more likely to suffer emotional exhaustion. An analogous process may occur with leaders: leaders who engage in emotional labor to boost the confidence of their followers may help their subordinates while increasing their own emotional exhaustion. This is likely to be a complex phenomena, because leaders may also benefit (through deep acting) by portraying confidence, and may also benefit by the greater success of their team. As a way of stimulating research on this complex process, we propose the following:
P4. During times of crisis or other negative events, leaders who engage in emotional labor to display more positive emotions than what they are actually feeling will increase their subordinates' feelings of confidence and optimism. These positive effects will be greater for leaders who use deep acting rather than surface acting.
P5. During times of crisis or other negative events, surface acting will contribute to leaders' emotional exhaustion.
Emotional contagion and leading with emotional labor
One of the most important ways in which leaders influence their followers' moods is through emotional contagion. Emotional contagion occurs when people catch or begin to share the moods of those around them, often by mimicking their “movements, expressions, postures, and vocalizations” (Hatfield et al., 1992, pp. 153-154). Emotional contagion can be quite powerful, for example, Barsade (2002) demonstrated how emotions can spread throughout the workplace and influence group behaviors. Pugh (2001) showed why “service with a smile” is so effective: because customers catch the positive moods displayed by service workers. Although much of the work on emotional contagion has examined how emotions are spread among peers, Sy et al. (2005) found that leaders' moods were especially contagious, and that their moods influenced group affective tone and other group processes. Goleman et al. (2002) concept of “resonance” is based on emotional contagion. According to their model, leaders must first establish resonance, or emotional synchronization, with their followers before they can guide them to more productive emotional states. Epitropaki (2006) argued that emotional contagion flows more from leaders (and power-holders) to followers rather than vice-versa, because followers focus their attention more on leaders. In a study of 126 managers and their direct reports, she found that managers' deep acting, but not their surface acting, significantly influenced subordinates' perceptions of whether the managers were transformational leaders.
In order to use emotional contagion to influence their followers, leaders have to engage in emotional labor; in other words, they have to express the emotions that they want the group members to feel.
P6. Leaders who engage in deep acting will be more emotionally contagious than leaders who either use surface acting or who do not perform emotional labor.
Leadership theories and emotional expressiveness
One duty of managers, or leaders, is to be emotionally expressive. In assigning an important role to emotional expression in her leadership model, George (2000) argued that the communication of emotions aids in goal attainment as well as the development of constructive interpersonal relationships. For example, Kellett et al. (2006) found that emotional expressiveness predicted empathy, which then predicted relationship leadership. However, equally important was their finding that emotional expressiveness directly predicted task leadership, which shows that expressing emotions is important not only for relationship leadership but also for task performance. Expressing stern, social control-type emotions may help to motivate group members who have a tendency to slack off, whereas expressing enthusiasm may motivate people to complete their work tasks. Emotional expressiveness may also serve as a signaling device to aid in communication; for example, task leaders may put greater urgency into their vocal tone when discussing top priorities.
Charismatic theories of leadership attribute a central role to emotional expressiveness, and argue that charismatic leaders deliberately express emotions to influence their followers (Gardner and Avolio, 1998; Waldman and Yammarino, 1999). For example, charismatic leaders are more effective at communicating because they use emotionally arousing metaphors and similar devices (Mio et al., 2005). Emotional displays play a large role in subordinates' impressions of their leaders' sincerity (Dasborough and Ashkanasy, 2002) and may even be more important than the content of the message in influencing judgments about the leader (Newcombe and Ashkanasy, 2002). In a study of leaders from 64 organizations, Groves (2005), found that leaders' skills in emotional expressivity determined others' perceptions of their charismatic leadership. De Hoogh and her coauthors (De Hoogh et al., 2005) demonstrated that charisma can increase effectiveness, for example, by improving subordinates' work attitudes. Likewise, Strange and Mumford (2005) used an experimental design to show that strong vision statements were more affectively engaging.
Transformational leadership theories have given special attention to the role of emotional expressiveness (Bass and Avolio, 1994). Transformational leaders are characterized by the following four attributes: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. Being emotionally expressive primarily involves the inspirational motivation and individualized consideration aspects of transformational leadership. We argue that emotional labor can help leaders make their speeches and communications more inspiring. Unless leaders put emotions into their communications, they are not likely to be inspiring, nor are they likely to establish a personalized, individual relationship with others. Because leaders are faced with the same busy, hectic work-life as their followers, they may need to take extra care and effort to shape their communications to be inspiring; in others words, they may need to use emotional labor to create the impressions that they want to give. This line of reasoning suggests the following propositions:
P7. Leaders who perform emotional labor will be perceived as better communicators, and deep acting will be more effective than surface acting at increasing perceptions of communication skill.
P8. Leaders who perform emotional labor will be more likely to be perceived as transformational leaders, and deep acting will be more effective than surface acting at increasing perceptions of transformational leadership.
Stress and emotional labor
A significant amount of research has examined the relationship between emotional labor and stress. A recent quantitative review by Bono and Vey (2005) found that emotional dissonance (a discrepancy between felt and expressed emotions), deep acting and surface acting were related to emotional exhaustion, and that emotional dissonance was related to depersonalization and physical complaints. Lee and Ashforth (1996) described depersonalization as a defensive measure taken by employees to avoid the strain caused by an insufficient emotional ability to cope with interpersonal stressors. Brotheridge and Lee (2002) found that deep acting was positively related to personal accomplishment and authenticity, and negatively related to depersonalization. They also found that surface acting was negatively related to authenticity and positively related to depersonalization. Brotheridge and Grandey (2002) found that the strategy by which employees handle emotions, by either surface acting or deep acting, seems to play a role in emotional health, levels of stress, and distancing. Deep acting, as opposed to faking emotions, is the preferred method of addressing emotions as it leads to positive outcomes such as feelings of personal accomplishment whereas faking can lead to distancing or depersonalization.
P9. Leaders who use surface acting to influence their followers will experience more stress and feelings of depersonalization than will leaders who use deep acting.
Emotional intelligence, emotional labor, and leadership
Emotional intelligence and other emotional abilities may give leaders the ability to more effectively perform emotional labor. For example, two people may both perform emotional labor, but one may do it in a clumsy and ineffective way, while the other may perform emotional labor in a superb fashion. There are numerous definitions of emotional intelligence and related abilities; Ashkanasy and Daus (2005, p. 442) argued that Mayer and Salovey's (1997) four branch model of emotional intelligence most accurately fits the definition of an intelligence:
- perception of emotion (in self and others);
- assimilation of emotion to facilitate thought;
- understanding of emotion; and
- managing and regulating emotion in self and others.
In their influential review, Daus and Ashkanasy (2005) demonstrated that recent emotional intelligence scales (MSCEIT) based on Mayer et al.'s (2000) model have appropriate discriminate and predictive validity and are not simply redundant measures of the Big Five personality measures (extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, openness to experience, and conscientiousness). (MSCEIT stands for the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test, see Mayer et al., 2001, 2000.) Emotional intelligence scales have also shown discriminate value with regard to other traits as well; for example, Jordan et al. (2002) have shown that the Workgroup Emotional Intelligence Profile (WEIP) is distinct from the 16 Personality Factors, the Revised Self-Monitoring Scales, and the Personal Style Inventory. The WEIP is also based on the Mayer and Salovey (1997) model of emotional intelligence.
Kellett et al. (2002, 2006) demonstrated that the WEIP measures predicted leadership emergence in assessment center groups. Although they did not directly study emotional labor, the emotional abilities they studied may be particularly relevant to performing emotional labor. The ability to recognize emotions in others may help leaders know when they need to perform emotional labor, for example, by recognizing when frustrated employees need sympathy or other forms of motivation and support (in order to provide sympathy, the leaders may have to display sympathetic emotional expressions, i.e. perform emotional labor). The ability to express one's own emotions may help leaders perform emotional labor, because emotional labor is only effective if emotions are expressed in a way that has an impact on the receivers. This may help most when leaders' emotional displays consist of spontaneous and genuine emotions, but it seems reasonable to believe that the ability to express one's emotions is a skill that may help with all three types of emotional labor:
- surface acting;
- deep acting; and
- spontaneous and genuine emotional expression.
The Kellett et al. (2002, 2006) finding that expressing one's own emotions predicts directly to task leadership suggests that leaders may perform emotional labor not only to express sympathy, but also to express other emotions as well, such as irritation at slackers, or enthusiasm for good performance. Empathy occurs when the leaders actually feel and share the emotions that the subordinates are experiencing. Their results imply that leaders who use emotional labor to establish an authentic empathic bond with their subordinates will be the best leaders.
Brotheridge (2006a) studied how one measure of emotional intelligence (MSCEIT) related to emotional labor and situational demands. She found that:
[…]the key role of emotional intelligence seemed to be as a predictor of the perceived situational demands, which, in turn, predicted the nature of emotional labor that was performed. Workers with higher levels of emotional intelligence were found to be more likely to perceive the need to frequently display emotions as part of their work role and perform deep acting in response to these situational demands (Brotheridge, 2006a, p. 139).
P10. Leaders high on emotional intelligence will be better at recognizing when situational demands call for performing emotional labor.
P11. Leaders high on the ability to express their own emotions will be better at performing all three types of emotional labor.
P12. Leaders high on empathy will prefer to use genuine emotional expressions and deep acting instead of surface acting.
Autonomy and position power
Although organizations have display rules that specify the type of emotions that should be portrayed, these display rules may vary considerably in the amount of autonomy they give service workers and leaders. Just as some organizations measure performance by processes and strictly regulate the behaviors and processes used by employees, others have display rules that specify the exact greetings or other words to be used by employees. For example, many fast-food restaurants and retail establishments require their cashiers to say “thank you” or “have a nice day,” or some similarly scripted response. In contrast, other organizations have display rules that give employees considerably greater freedom to express themselves. Because some organizations encourage variety in emotional expressions and others do not, Morris and Feldman (1996) and Brotheridge and Lee (2003) list variety as one of the facets of emotional labor. These differences in display rules may be traced to differences in organizational culture (Ashforth and Humphrey, 1995). For example, Southwest Airlines is famous for giving its employees the freedom to tell jokes or act in a spontaneous manner in dealing with customers. Thus, Southwest Airlines, although it actually places a higher premium on emotional expressiveness than does its competitors, has display rules that give greater autonomy to employees. Kelly and Barsade (2001) also discuss how organization-wide emotion norms can constrain or amplify group members' emotions.
One major difference between managers and subordinates concerns the degree of position power and autonomy that they have. This difference may influence whether or not they find emotional labor to be stressful. Although it may be tempting to assume that managers and leaders always have more autonomy and personal control than subordinates, this may not always be the case. For example, Brotheridge and Grandey (2002) found that managers choose to modify their emotional expressions with customers as much as their front-line service workers did, even though the former had more formal job autonomy. Frontline employees often feel very little responsibility for the success of a business, and may not intend to be long-term employees anyway. In contrast, managers may feel more responsible for the success of the work-unit and may feel greater pressure to display the right emotions to please customers.
The degree to which managers have autonomy in their interactions with organizational members may also vary widely. The organizational setting makes many leader behaviors non-discretionary, which means that many apparently voluntary leader behaviors are actually guided by organizational policies, corporate culture and organizationally-determined behavioral scripts (Hunt et al., 1978; Osborn and Ashforth, 1990). For example, Humphrey and Ashforth (2000) found that top management strategy that was passed down through the various management levels influenced buyers' interpersonal interactions with supplier agents, and that this organizational influence was more important than the buyers' preferred interaction style. As a result, many buyers had to use a less friendly and more formal style than they preferred, and in some cases even used threats. In the same way, managers and leaders at various levels of the organization are likely to find that their emotional displays are influenced by organizational strategy and corporate culture, and do not solely reflect their personal preferences.
There are many types of work events that are likely to require managers and other leaders to adopt a “get tough” stance towards their subordinates. For example, Bryant and Cox (2006) described how managers adopted hostile emotional displays when they communicated bad news about demotions, displacements, and other negative organizational changes. In some cases, the managers had worked side-by-side for years with the subordinates on a good basis until the change programs implemented by the company caused the managers to distance themselves from the subordinates (Bryant and Cox, 2006, p. 122). Bryant and Cox also found that subordinates had to use emotional labor to help them avoid displaying their negative reactions to their managers. Their study suggests that many workplace events are likely to stimulate managers to publicly display emotions supportive of the organization's get- tough policies; even if the managers would privately prefer to express support to the people they had worked collegially with for years. These negative emotional displays are likely to exasperate the conflict between managers and subordinates and to create stress for both parties. For example, Dasborough (2006) found that leader originated negative events strongly influenced subordinate moods, and that subordinates were more likely to recall negative events than positive ones.
As scholars have known since Fiedler first developed his contingency theory of leadership, managers also vary in their position power relative to their subordinates. Although in some organizations managers have considerable leeway to hire and fire employees, in other organizations managers have little authority over their subordinates due to pressure from upper-administrators or from unions. In other cases, managers' authority may be limited by their reliance on the skills and expertise of their subordinates. Managers may have to seek the goodwill and cooperation of their subordinates to get the job done, and thus may feel required to perform emotional labor.
Conversely, there may also be conditions where managers and leaders have considerable autonomy to choose the emotions they express with their subordinates. In these cases they may perform emotional displays that reflect their own personal identities and sense of self. Under these conditions performing emotional labor may actually increase leaders' wellbeing and sense of fulfillment (Ashforth and Humphrey, 1993). Consistent with this perspective, Brotheridge and Grandey (2002, p. 17) found that “Perceiving the demand to display positive emotions and using deep-level regulation were associated with a heightened sense of personal accomplishment, suggesting positive benefits to this aspect of work.” Likewise, Van Dijk and Kirk-Brown (2006) found that performing emotional labor only created negative outcomes when it also created feelings of dissonance – if people identified with their roles and with their emotional displays then they did not feel emotional exhaustion.
P13. Managers with low personal control but high responsibility will feel greater stress than front-line service workers when performing emotional labor.
P14. Managers who must use emotional labor to express “get-tough” negative emotions that are inconsistent with their true feelings and personal identity will experience heightened levels of stress.
P15. Leaders with high personal control who use emotional labor to express positive emotions that are consistent with their personal identity will experience an increased sense of wellbeing and fulfilment.
The literature reviewed here suggests that leaders frequently perform emotional labor as part of their effort to influence their followers' moods and emotions. Because followers' moods and emotions can have a substantial effect on their performance, leaders who are successful at influencing moods may be more effective. The type of emotional labor performed by leaders is likely to differ in significant ways from the emotional labor performed by subordinates. Many service workers perform emotional labor in a highly repetitive fashion, and usually have a narrow range of emotions that they have to display for their particular job type. In contrast, leaders are likely to need to display a wide range of emotions in their efforts to manage employees and other types of followers and team members. Moreover, leaders must exercise considerably more judgment about which emotions to display. It may be especially important for leaders to use emotional labor during times of crisis or when confronting other negative workplace events. During these times leaders need to publicly display emotions indicative of confidence and optimism even if they privately share the same worries and anxieties of their subordinates. Although performing surface acting may make leaders more effective, it may also add to leaders' feelings of emotional exhaustion.
Leading with emotional labor may work in part through emotional contagion processes. Leaders who perform emotional labor may also be more emotionally expressive and better communicators. Their greater communication skills may help them be perceived as transformational leaders.
Obtaining success through leading with emotional labor does have some costs, especially for those who use surface acting. The literature suggests that leaders who use surface acting may experience feelings of depersonalization, although those who use deep acting or genuine emotional displays may not suffer the same effects. Leaders with higher emotional intelligence may also be better at recognizing when to perform emotional labor and may better realize the advantages of using genuine emotional expressions and deep acting. Organizational factors that determine the amount of personal control and autonomy that leaders have over their emotional displays may have a strong influence over whether leaders perform emotional labor. These organizational and situational factors may also influence whether leaders find performing emotional labor to be stressful or not.
The propositions here still need to be tested; very little work has been done examining how leaders perform emotional labor as a way of influencing subordinates, team members, and followers. However, the available research suggests that this should be a fruitful line of research for many years.
These propositions also have tremendous practical implications. Most importantly, they suggest that managers need to pay attention to the moods and emotions of their followers. This advice is in complete opposition to the advice published frequently in the news – and even in some academic textbooks – that argued that variables such as job satisfaction have nothing to do with performance and productivity.
These propositions also strongly suggest that the popular advice to “act in a business-like manner” and to refrain from displaying emotions needs to be changed. Although managers and other leaders may not have to express emotions 24-hours-a-day, expressing the appropriate emotions is a key function that both task and relationship leaders need to perform. Thus rather than telling managers and other leaders not to express their emotions, leaders need better training in how to express their emotions effectively. This may help leaders use either deep acting or genuine emotional expressions and avoid the harmful psychological effects that accompany surface acting. Mastering the basic skills behind genuine emotional expression and deep acting may make the workplace more productive and enjoyable for both leaders and followers.
Table IA comparison of types of emotions experienced, the six facets of emotional labor, and role identification for service workers and leaders
Ashforth, B.E., Humphrey, R.H. (1993), "Emotional labor in service roles: the influence of identity", Academy of Management Review, Vol. 181 pp.88-115.
Ashforth, B.E., Humphrey, R.H. (1995), "Emotion in the work place: a reappraisal", Human Relations, Vol. 48 pp.97-125.
Ashkanasy, N.M., Daus, C.S. (2002), "Emotion in the workplace: the new challenge for managers", Academy of Management Executive, Vol. 16 pp.76-86.
Ashkanasy, N.M., Daus, C.S. (2005), "Rumors of the death of emotional intelligence in organizational behavior are vastly exaggerated", Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. 26 pp.441-52.
Barsade, S.G. (2002), "The ripple effect: emotional contagion and its influence on group behavior", Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 47 pp.644-75.
Bass, B.M., Avolio, B.J. (1994), Improving organizational effectiveness through transformational leadership, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, .
Bono, J.E., Vey, M.A. (2005), "Toward understanding emotional management at work: a quantitative review of emotional labor research", in Hartel, C.E., Zerbe, W.J., Ashkanasy, N.M. (Eds),Emotions in Organizational Behavior, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, Mahwah, NJ, pp.213-33.
Brotheridge, C.M. (2006a), "The role of emotional intelligence and other individual differences in predicting emotional labor relative to situational demands", Psicothema, Vol. 18 pp.139-44.
Brotheridge, C.M. (2006b), "A review of emotional labour and its nomological network: practical and research implications", Ergonomia IJE&HF, Vol. 28 pp.295-309.
Brotheridge, C.M., Grandey, A.A. (2002), "Emotional labor and burnout: comparing two perspectives of people work", Journal of Vocational Behavior, Vol. 60 pp.17-39.
Brotheridge, C.M., Lee, R.T. (2002), "Testing a conservation of resources model of the dynamics of emotional labor", Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Vol. 7 pp.57-67.
Brotheridge, C.M., Lee, R.T. (2003), "Development and validation of the emotional labour scale", Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Vol. 76 pp.365-79.
Bryant, M., Cox, J.W. (2006), "The expression of suppression: loss and emotional labour in narratives of organizational change", Journal of Management and Organizations, Vol. 12 pp.116-30.
Cote, S., Morgan, L. (2002), "A longitudinal analysis of the association between emotion regulation, job satisfaction, and intentions to quit", Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. 23 pp.947-62.
Cote, S., Miners, C. (2006), "Emotional intelligence, cognitive intelligence, and job performance", Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 51 No.1, pp.1-26.
Dasborough, M.T. (2006), "Cognitive asymmetry and employee emotional reactions to leadership behaviors", The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 17 No.2, pp.163-78.
Dasborough, M.T., Ashkanasy, N.M. (2002), "Emotion and attribution of intentionality in leader-member relationships", The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 13 No.5, pp.615-34.
Daus, C., Ashkanasy, N.M. (2005), "The case for the ability-based model of emotional intelligence in organizational behavior", Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. 26 No.4, pp.453-67.
De Hoogh, A.H.B., Den Hartog, D.N., Kopman, P.L., Thierry, H., Van den Berg, P.T., Van der Weide, J.G., Wilderom, C.P.M. (2005), "Leader motives, charismatic leadership, and subordinates' work attitudes in the profit and voluntary sector", The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 16 No.1, pp.17-38.
Diefendorff, J.M., Croyle, M.H., Gosserand, R.H. (2005), "The dimensionality and antecedents of emotional labor strategies", Journal of Vocational Behavior, Vol. 66 No.2, pp.339-57.
Epitropaki, O. (2006), “‘Leading the show’: the impact of leader's emotional labor on subordinates' transformation leadership perceptions and collective emotional labor”, paper presented at the Academy of Management Conference, Atlanta, GA, .
Gardner, W.L., Avolio, B.J. (1998), "The charismatic relationship: a dramaturgical perspective'", Academy of Management Review, Vol. 23 No.1, pp.32-58.
George, J.M. (2000), "Emotions and leadership: the role of emotional intelligence", Human Relations, Vol. 53 No.8, pp.1027-55.
Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., McKee, A. (2002), Primal Leadership, Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, MA, .
Groves, K.S. (2005), "Linking leader skills, follower attitudes, and contextual variables via an integrated model of charismatic leadership", Journal of Management, Vol. 31 No.2, pp.255-77.
Hatfield, E., Cacioppa, J., Rapson, R.L. (1992), "Emotional contagion", in Clark, M.S. (Eds),Review of Personality and Social Psychology: Emotion and Social Behavior, Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA, pp.151-77.
Humphrey, R.H. (2005), “Empathy, emotional expressiveness, and leadership”, Proceedings of the Southern Management Association, Charleston, SC, .
Humphrey, R.H. (2006), “Leading with emotional labor”, paper presented at the Academy of Management Conference, Atlanta, GA, .
Humphrey, R.H., Ashforth, B.E. (2000), "Buyer-supplier alliances in the automobile industry: how exit-voice strategies influence interpersonal relationships", Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. 21 pp.713-30.
Hunt, J.G., Osborn, R.N., Schuler, R.S. (1978), "Relations of discretionary and nondiscretionary leadership to performance and satisfaction in a complex organization", Human Relations, Vol. 31 pp.507-23.
Jordan, P.J., Ashkanasy, N.M., Härtel, C.E.J. (2002), "Workgroup emotional intelligence: scale development and relationship to team process effectiveness and goal focus", Human Resource Management Review, Vol. 12 No.2, pp.195-214.
Jordan, P.J., Lawrence, S.A., Troth, A.C. (2006), "The impact of negative mood on team performance", Journal of Management & Organization, Vol. 12 pp.131-45.
Kellett, J.B., Humphrey, R.H., Sleeth, R.G. (2002), "Empathy and complex task performance: two routes to leadership", The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 13 No.5, pp.523-44.
Kellett, J.B., Humphrey, R.H., Sleeth, R.G. (2006), "Empathy and the emergence of task and relations leaders", The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 17 pp.146-62.
Kelly, J.R., Barsade, S.G. (2001), "Mood and emotions in small groups and work teams", Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Vol. 86 No.1, pp.99-130.
Lee, R.T., Ashforth, B.E. (1996), "A meta-analytic examination of the correlates of the three dimensions of job burnout", Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 81 No.2, pp.123-33.
McColl-Kennedy, J.R., Anderson, R.D. (2002), "Impact of leadership style and emotions on subordinate performance", The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 13 No.5, pp.545-59.
Mayer, J.D., Caruso, D.R., Salovey, P. (1997), "What is emotional intelligence?", in Salovey, P., Sluyter, A. (Eds),Emotional Development and Emotional Intelligence: Educational Implications, Basic Books, New York, NY, pp.3-31.
Mayer, J.D., Caruso, D.R., Salovey, P. (2000), "Selecting a measure of emotional intelligence: the case for ability scales", in Bar-On, R., Parker, J. (Eds),The Handbook of Emotional Intelligence: Theory, Development, Assessment, and Application at Home, School, and the Workplace, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA, pp.320-42.
Mayer, J.D., Caruso, D.R., Salovey, P. (2001), The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), Multi-Health Systems, Toronto, .
Mio, J.S., Riggio, R.E., Levin, S., Reese, R. (2005), "Presidential leadership and charisma: the effects of metaphor", The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 16 No.2, pp.287-94.
Morris, J.A., Brotheridge, C.M., Urbanski, J.C. (2005), "Bringing humility to leadership: antecedents and consequences of leader humility", Human Relations, Vol. 58 No.10, pp.1323-51.
Morris, J.A., Feldman, D.C. (1996), "The dimensions, antecedents, and consequences of emotional labor", of Management Review, Vol. 21 pp.986-1010.
Newcombe, M.J., Ashkanasy, N.M. (2002), "The role of affect and affective congruence in perceptions of leaders: an experimental study", The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 13 No.5, pp.601-14.
Osborn, R.N., Ashforth, B.E. (1990), "Investigating the challenges to senior leadership in complex, high-risk technologies", The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 1 pp.147-63.
Pescosolido, A.T. (2002), "Emergent leaders as managers of group emotion", The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 13 No.5, pp.583-99.
Pirola-Merlo, A., Haertel, C., Mann, L., Hirst, G. (2002), "How leaders influence the impact of affective events on team climate and performance in R&D teams", The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 13 No.5, pp.561-81.
Pugh, S.D. (2001), "Service with a smile: emotional contagion in the service encounter", Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 44 pp.1018-27.
Rafaeli, A., Sutton, R.I. (1987), "Expression of emotion as part of the work role", Academy of Management Review, Vol. 12 pp.23-37.
Strange, J., Mumford, M.D. (2005), "The origins of vision: effects of reflection, models, and analysis", The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 6 No.1, pp.121-48.
Sutton, R.I. (1991), "Maintaining norms about expressed emotions: the case of bill collectors", Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 36 No.2, pp.245-68.
Sy, T., Cote, S., Saavedra, R. (2005), "The contagious leader: the impact of the leader's mood on the mood of group members, group affective tone, and group processes", Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 90 pp.295-305.
Van Dijk, P.A., Kirk-Brown, A. (2006), "Emotional labor and negative job outcomes: an evaluation of the mediating role of emotional dissonance", Journal of Management & Organization, Vol. 12 pp.101-15.
Waldman, D.A., F, J., Yammarino, C.E.O. (1999), "Charisma leadership: levels-of-management and levels-of-analysis effects", Academy of Management Review, Vol. 24 pp.266-85.
Weiss, H.M., Cropanzano, R. (1996), "Affective events theory: a theoretical discussion of the structure, causes and consequences of affective experiences at work", in Staw, B.M., Cummings, L.L. (Eds),Research in Organizational Behavior, JAI Press, Greenwich, CT, pp.1-74.
Weiss, H.M., Nichols, J.P., Daus, C.S. (1999), "An examination of the joint effects of affective experiences and job beliefs on job satisfaction and variations in affective experiences over time", Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Vol. 78 No.1, pp.1-24.
Bateman, T.S., Porath, C. (2003), "Transcendent behavior", in Cameron, K.S., Dutton, J.E., Quinn, R.E. (Eds),Positive Organizational Scholarship, Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CA, pp.122-37.
Cameron, K.S., Dutton, J.E., Quinn, R.E. (2003), Positive Organizational Scholarship, Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CA, .
Day, D.V. (2001), "Leadership development: a review in context", The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 11 No.4, pp.581-613.
De Cremer, D., van Knippenberg, D. (2004), "Leader self-sacrifice and leadership effectiveness: the moderating role of leader self-confidence", Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Vol. 95 pp.140-55.
Lee, R.T., Ashforth, B.E. (1993), "A further examination of managerial burnout: toward an integrated model", Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. 14 No.1, pp.3-20.
About the authors
Ronald H. Humphrey, whose current research interests focus on how both cognitive and emotional processes influence leadership, has published in the Academy of Management Review, Research in Organizational Behavior, Leadership Quarterly, American Sociological Review, Social Psychology Quarterly, Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Human Relations, Organization Science, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Public Opinion Quarterly, Journal of Organizational Behavior, and other leading journals. Ron also enjoys teaching undergraduates, MBAs and doctoral students in the Department of Management at Virginia Commonwealth University. He gained his BA at the University of Chicago; his PhD at the University of Michigan; and his Postdoctoral Fellow at the Indiana University. Ronald H. Humphrey is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: email@example.com
Jeffrey M. Pollack is currently pursing a PhD at Virginia Commonwealth University. Pollack's current research focus is directed towards the domains of leadership and entrepreneurship. From a social cognitive perspective, Pollack explores what factors enable leaders and entrepreneurs to respond adaptively to setbacks.
Thomas Hawver is a doctoral student in Organizational Behavior at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Business in Richmond, Virginia. His research interests include emotional labor, emotional intelligence of general surgeons, and entrepreneurial firm performance and its relationship to strategic human resource systems.