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J Occup Health Psychol. 2010 Oct;15(4):505-21. doi: 10.1037/a0021003.

Emotional labor, strain, and performance: Testing reciprocal relationships in a longitudinal panel study.

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Department of Work and Social Psychology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands.


Models of emotional labor suggest that emotional labor leads to strain and affects job performance. Although the link between emotional labor, strain, and performance has been well documented in cross-sectional field studies, not much is known about the causal direction of relationships between emotional labor, strain, and performance. Goal of the present study was therefore to test the direction of effects in a two-wave longitudinal panel study using a sample of 151 trainee teachers. Longitudinal lagged effects were tested using structural equation modeling. Results revealed that the emotional labor strategy of surface acting led to increases in subsequent strain while deep acting led to increases in job performance. In contrast, there was no indication of reverse causation: Neither strain nor job performance had a significant lagged effect on subsequent surface or deep acting. Overall, results support models of emotional labor suggesting that surface and deep acting causally precede individual and organizational well-being.

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