Reciprocal relations between emotional exhaustion and episode-specific emotional labour: An experience-sampling study

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Service employees’ surface acting is exhausting, but it is unclear if exhaustion appears instantly after a single service episode. Moreover, evidence regarding the reversed causality in which exhaustion predicts surface acting is scarce and unequivocal. Our experience-sampling study investigates dynamic reciprocal relations between service employees’ exhaustion and surface acting, and additionally deep acting, across two service episodes, the first one of the day and the last one before lunchtime. Drawing on conservation of resources theory, we hypothesised that exhaustion is an antecedent of episode-specific surface acting and that episode-specific surface acting is an antecedent of exhaustion directly following the service episode. During five days, 120 service employees answered three daily surveys between morning and lunchtime. Multilevel path analysis showed that exhaustion before work was not related to first-episode surface acting. First-episode surface acting was positively related to subsequent exhaustion, which was positively related to subsequent surface acting, which was positively related to subsequent exhaustion. Exhaustion experienced after the first service episode was also positively related to subsequent deep acting. Findings highlight the importance of integrating reciprocal relations between exhaustion and surface acting into the emotional labour literature and studying the direct well-being costs of surface acting in single service episodes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWork and Stress
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)421-445
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 09.2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the University of Mannheim's Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

    Research areas

  • Psychology - conservation of resources theory, surface acting, Emotional exhaustion, dynamic emotional labour, experience-sampling method