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J Occup Health Psychol. 2014 Jan;19(1):108-21. doi: 10.1037/a0035067.

The role of punishment and reward sensitivity in the emotional labor process: a within-person perspective.

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School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University.
Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University.


In this diary study, we tested the possibility that dispositional reward and punishment sensitivity, two central constructs of reinforcement sensitivity theory, would modify the relationship between emotional labor and job-related well-being (i.e., work engagement, emotional exhaustion, depersonalization). Specifically, based on a social functional account of emotion, we hypothesized that surface acting entails the risk of social disapproval and therefore may be more detrimental for high than for low punishment-sensitive individuals. In contrast, deep acting is hypothesized to hold the promise of social approval and therefore may be more beneficial for high than for low reward-sensitive individuals. Hypotheses were tested in a sample of 237 service workers (N = 1,584 daily reports) who completed a general survey and daily surveys over the course of 10 working days. Multilevel analyses showed that surface acting was detrimental to well-being, and more strongly so for high than for low punishment-sensitive individuals. The results are consistent with the idea that heightened sensitivity to social disapproval aggravates the negative effects of surface acting.

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