The bright side of emotional labor

Ronald H. Humphrey, Blake Ashforth, James M. Diefendorff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

280 Scopus citations


Emotional labor (expressing emotions as part of one's job duties, as in "service with a smile") can be beneficial for employees, organizations, and customers. Meta-analytical summaries reveal that deep acting (summoning up the appropriate feelings one wants to display) generally has positive outcomes. Unlike surface acting (faking emotions), deep acting does not harm employee well-being, and deep acting is positively related with job satisfaction, organizational commitment, job performance, and customer satisfaction. Emerging research also suggests that a third form of emotional labor, natural and genuine emotional labor, is a frequently used emotional labor strategy that has positive effects for both employees and customers. We examine how identity processes shape how employees experience emotional labor, and we maintain that when employees identify with their roles, emotional labor augments and affirms their identity. Person-job fit is an important moderator that influences whether emotional labor enhances or hinders employee well-being. Emotional labor may also have positive outcomes when organizations grant more autonomy and adopt positive display rules that call for the expression of positive emotions. Recent research also indicates that emotional labor strategies may improve leadership effectiveness. Research opportunities on the bright side of emotional labor are abundant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)749-769
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Customer service
  • Emotional labor
  • Emotional regulation
  • Identification
  • Leadership

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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