01 Mar 2003
Service with a SmileTopics:
In an effort to understand the role that suppressing or exaggerating emotions has
on employees, HBS assistant professor Laura Morgan Roberts and a colleague from
the University of Toronto, Stéphane Côté, set about to measure
the relationship between emotion regulation and job satisfaction. Using data from
111 workers college students who labored in service jobs the pair measured
job satisfaction and its relationship to whether workers were being asked to hide
or exaggerate emotions. Their study, A Longitudinal Analysis of the Association
between Emotion Regulation, Job Satisfaction, and Intentions to Quit, was
published in the December 2002 Journal of Organizational Behavior.
Not surprisingly, the researchers found that workers who are asked to suppress
negative or unpleasant emotions are often unhappy at work and consider leaving
their jobs. Using the inability to tell a boss when one is angry or disappointed
as an example, Roberts and Côté advise employers to minimize the
frequency of unpleasant emotions that employees need to suppress. Thus, as
Roberts said in a recent interview, Its best to create a work environment where
people can be authentic. If they are unsatisfied, they need to have a means of
communicating their emotions. Interestingly, when employees are asked to amplify
certain positive emotions to deliver a product with a smile, for instance
their job satisfaction increases. Display rules that call for pleasant emotions
appear to benefit both the individual and the organization, write the authors.
People who are asked to exaggerate positive emotions tend to be fairly satisfied
with their work, said Roberts. Its a social catalyst that not only benefits
those around you, it also makes you feel better.
Roberts, who studies how people manage the impressions they make on others,
believes that impression management is an ever-present and important element of
organizational life. People are always thinking about how others view them and
how they would like to be viewed. Fostering authentic interpersonal relations
among coworkers and enabling people to feel comfortable being themselves
contribute to organizational success, she concluded.