Some employees tend to drink more alcohol than other employees, with costs to personal and organizational well-being. Based on a self-control framework, we propose that emotional labor with customers-effortfully amplifying, faking, and suppressing emotional expressions (i.e., surface acting)-predicts alcohol consumption, and that this relationship varies depending on job expectations for self-control (i.e., autonomy) and personal self-control traits (i.e., impulsivity). We test these predictions with data drawn from a national probability sample of U.S. workers, focusing on employees with daily contact with outsiders (N = 1,592). The alcohol outcomes included heavy drinking and drinking after work. Overall, surface acting was robustly related to heavy drinking, even after controlling for demographics, job demands, and negative affectivity, consistent with an explanation of impaired self-control. Surface acting predicted drinking after work only for employees with low self-control jobs or traits; this effect was exacerbated for those with service encounters (i.e., customers and the public) and buffered for those with service relationships (i.e., patients, students, and clients). We discuss what these results mean for emotional labor and propose directions for helping the large segment of U.S. employees in public facing occupations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Psychology
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health