Integrating perspectives of cognitive dissonance and coping theories into an understanding of the causal sequence between emotional labour, emotional dissonance and job burnout

2017-03-01T05:13:42Z (GMT) by Wijeratne, Aaron
Customer service-based employees act as an interface between the consumer and the organisation using managed emotional display which is known as emotional labour. While much research into emotional labour has been conducted over the last three decades, disagreement persists regarding the consequences of emotional labour on employee well-being, ranging from job satisfaction to job burnout. Conflicting empirical findings suggests there is much to be understood regarding the impact of emotional labour on employee well-being, particularly the differential impact of the two types of acting associated with emotional labour: surface acting (faking emotional display) and deep acting (trying to manufacture ‘authentic’ emotional display) and the function of emotional dissonance (stressor). This research examines the employee processes and mechanisms used by University Student Services staff to manage the experience of emotional dissonance during the process of performing emotional labour (specifically, surface acting). This research presents and tests a theoretically derived model of emotional labour that integrates components of coping and cognitive dissonance theories that assists in explaining how employees may manage the affective consequences of emotional labour. Adopting a mixed methods approach, this research includes three sequential phases. The first stage is a qualitative evaluation of the constructs within the theoretical model within the applied setting of Higher Education Student Services. The second stage involves two phases of data collection to develop and test emotional labour focused measures of behavioural disengagement and effort justification (cognitive dissonance theory), as well as a measure of emotional dissonance. The third and final stage tests the proposed model within the applied setting using the scales developed in stage two of the research. Study 1- A qualitative evaluation of the theoretical model using semi-structured interviews on a sample of Student Services employees (n=18). This study is also used to inform item selection and development for Study 2. Study 2- Stage 1: An assessment of the theoretically derived measurement models for emotional dissonance, behavioural disengagement, and effort justification using SEM techniques on a sample of customer service-based employees (n= 355). Stage 2: A confirmation of the measurement models on a sample of customer service-based employees (n= 154). Study 3- A test of the theoretical model using SEM and regression-based techniques using a sample of Student Services employees (n= 175). The scales developed in Study 2 are used in this phase of the research. The results supported the proposed mediating relationship of emotional dissonance between surface acting and job burnout suggesting that the negative affective state is central to determining the nature of job outcomes associated with emotional labour. The findings also indicated that employees who engage in the cognitive reappraisal mechanisms of behavioural disengagement and effort justification are able to manage the level of emotional dissonance they experience when surface acting. This finding illustrates the salience of individual differences in managing the consequences of emotional labour and contributes to clarifying the complex relationship between emotional labour and burnout. Finally, preventive coping was the only individual coping style found to predict the choice of emotional labour based acting (deep acting). This research demonstrates the importance of understanding intrapersonal processes in determining individual responses to emotional labour-based role demands and, in part, helps to clarify the nature and management of emotional dissonance, its measurement and its impact on employee burnout.