How Venting Helps Service Employees

Topic(s): job satisfaction, stress
Publication: Journal of Management (2013)
Article: Alleviating the burden of emotional labor: The role of social sharin
Authors: A.S. McCance, C.D. Nye, L. Wang, K.S. Jones, C. Chiu
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

If you’ve ever worked in the service industry, you know that some customers can be incredibly frustrating. You get angry, your blood pressure rises, you try really hard to hold your tongue, and then you complain to your coworkers later. And then you feel better. It turns out that venting to your coworkers really does make a difference. In a recent lab study, participants were subjected to both neutral and difficult “customers.” Not surprisingly, participants who had to deal with a difficult customer were more likely to be angry and use surface acting (in other words, they hid their true feelings).


Social sharing is just what it sounds like – sharing an experience with others. Three different types of social sharing assessed in this study were the sharing of feelings, facts, and positive experiences. The authors found that all three types of social sharing were beneficial in reducing anger caused by difficult customers. Although anger decreased over time for all participants, those who were able to share their experiences with others showed an even greater decrease in anger.


The results from this study have substantial implications for those working in the service industry. A lot of companies discourage employees from venting about negative situations with customers, but this study suggests that social sharing is helpful in dealing with these types of situations. Allow employees break time to talk about their negative encounters with customers; you’ll be doing a favor for your employees and your company.


McCance, A. S., Nye, C. D., Wang, L., Jones, K. S., & Chiu, C. (2013). Alleviating the burden of emotional labor: The role of social sharing. Journal of Management, 39, 392-415.