How Job Performance Affects Emotional Labor Strategies

Research has shown that employees who experience job stress and regular abuse from customers are more likely to use “surface acting” and less likely to use “deep acting.” Surface acting is when employees superficially display certain emotions without changing their inner feelings. Deep acting is when employees regulate their actual feelings to align with the emotions required on the job. Both are considered to be types of emotional labor.

Researchers in this study (Hur, Shin, & Moon, 2020) examined how job performance impacts emotional labor in the context of service jobs – an industry known to be demanding and energy-depleting. The authors also surveyed employees’ level of relaxation after work and their emotional state the next morning. 


The researchers conducted two studies with employees from service industries in South Korea. In the first study, they surveyed 104 flight attendants and in the second study, they surveyed 98 hotel employees. Participants completed surveys twice a day for 5 consecutive work days. The flight attendants in the study worked on domestic flights and maintained schedules similar to standard business hours.

The researchers found that the better that employees performed, the better relaxation they were likely to experience after work. In turn, these employees were more likely to experience positive emotions the next morning. The more that employees experienced next-morning positive emotions, the more likely they were to engage in deep acting that day at work. The authors also found that the more employees experienced negative emotions, the more they relied on surface acting that work day.

The authors explain that employees may have an easier time relaxing after work if they performed well that day – after all, they have less to worry about or mentally digest. Relaxation then allows for replenishment mentally, physically, and emotionally, leading employees to feel positive the next morning. While feeling positive at work, employees do not have to fake positive emotions required of the job (i.e. surface acting). Instead, they have the ability to regulate emotions and make genuine expressions (i.e. deep acting).


Given the study findings, the authors recommend that organizations set attainable daily performance goals for employees, provide resources to improve job performance, and create opportunities for positive experiences during the workday. The authors also recommend that organizations in the service sector design jobs that are not overly-demanding and allow sufficient time for off-job relaxation. In addition, they suggest that training programs (e.g. mindfulness training) could be beneficial. Lastly, the authors recommend that organizations establish policies that deter longer than normal work shifts. For example, they might turn off all office computers after standard working hours.


Hur, W.-M., Shin, Y., & Moon, T.W. (2020). How does daily performance affect next-day emotional labor? The mediating roles of evening relaxation and next-morning positive affect. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 25(6), 410-425.