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Emotional labor in intercultural service encounters: An experience sampling study

Author: Andrea Silke McCance
The body of literature surrounding emotional labor, defined as service employees' effort to manage their emotions to meet organizational goals (Hochschild, 1983; Morris & Feldman, 1996), exhibits a severe lack of studies examining intercultural service encounters (i.e., service episodes in which a provider from culture A delivers a service to a customer from culture B; Stauss & Mang, 1999). This dissertation posits an intrapersonal model of emotional labor in intercultural service encounters. Central to this model is the construct of cultural competence (Earley & Ang, 2003), which is defined as the ability to adapt effectively and flexibly in culturally diverse settings. Using experience sampling methodology with a hospitality industry sample, I found that cultural competence was associated with deep acting and performance. Openness to experience predicted cultural competence through active seeking of multicultural experience (i.e., multicultural personality). Implications for the selection (based on openness) and training (for deep acting and cultural competence) of service providers in an increasingly globalized service industry are discussed.



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For over two decades, e motional labor –

the regulation of emotions at work –

has emerged as a construct of utmost interest to researchers and practitioners

alike . A n ever - growing

body of literature has consistently shown the significance emotional labor holds in the workplace and has accumulat ed

evidence for its impact on both individual and organizational outcomes , such as

employees’ physiological and psychological well - being, performance, turnover, and customer satisfaction ( e.g.,

Barger & Grandey, 2006; Grandey, 2003; Morris & Feldman, 1997;


2001; Tsai, 2001; Tsai & Huang, 2002 ) .

However, n ext to no studies have f ocused



intercultural service context. In t h is

dissertation , I developed and tested

a model of emotional labor in intercultural service encounters that

link s

cultural com petence

to emotional labor and performance

(see Figure s


and 2 ) . The model also looks at antecedents to cultural competence

(i.e., openness to experience and multicultural experiences) and outcomes of emotional labor (i.e., emotional exhaustion). Th e hypo thesized relationships

w ere

tested using an experience sampling approach .

In Chapter 1, I describe the background on emotions in the workplace, focusing on the research surrounding emotional labor. I take an intercultural perspective and review the resea rch conducted on intercultural service encounters in related fields, pointing out the importance to study emotional labor within such a

context. Next, I introduce cultural competence as the proposed key to intercultural service quality. Finally, I lay out the arguments substantiating the hypothesized relationships in the theoretical model.

Emotions in the Workplace

During the heyday of

Taylor’s (1911) “ scientific management ” , employees were regarded as robot - like machines devoid of feeling (Rafaeli & Worline, 2001; Schneider, 1994; Taylor,


1911) . In stark contrast to this popular scientific view from almost a century ago, recent decades have seen a veritable explosion of research on the role of emotion in organizations

(Elfenbein, 2007 ) .

Rafaeli neatly summarized the realization behind this new development : “Leave out the understanding of emotion and you have left out the real key to what

and why happens in organizat ions” (2004, p. 1344). Along with this trend came not only the acknowledgment

that employees’ performance on the job can

indeed be affected by their emotions , but also the increasing classification of emotions as a commodity th at needs to –

and can –

be controlled and regulated by organizations ( Fineman, 2001; Hochschild, 1983; Rafaeli, 2004). Th e latter

is especially pertinent in the service industry.

Emotional Labor

in the Service Context

Hochschild was the first to coin the term “emotional labor” in her groundbreaking

work on the commoditization of feelings in the workplace (Hochschild, 1983). Emotional labor is defined as expending effort to regulate

emotions at work in pursuit of organizational goals (Hochschi ld, 1983; Morris & Feldman, 1996 ). Often times

this is accomplished by following either formal or informal display rules that dictate t he appropriate organizationally sanctioned emotional display ( Diefendorff & Gosserand, 2003; Diefendorff & Richard, 2003; Rafaeli & Sutton, 1987 ). Service employees act

as the faces of their organization. Thus, e mployers hope that by encouraging certain emotional displays when

interacting with customers, service workers will turn the customer’s experience with the organization into a p leasant memory that will ensure customer satisfaction , loyalty , and repeat business

(Pugh, 2001; Tsai, 2001; Tsai & Huang, 2002).

Past r esearch shows that employees regulate their emotions via

t wo strategies

(Hochschild, 1983; Grandey, 2003): deep acting and surface acting. Deep acting entails


modifying one’s actual emotional state, e.g., by trying to empathize with the customers ; while s urface acting refers to modifying one’s outward emotional display, e.g., facial expression, tone of voice, gestures, etc .

In emotion regulation terms, these strategies can be equated to antecedent - focused emotion regulation (e.g., reappraisal) and response - focused emotion regulation (e.g., suppression; Grandey, 2000; Gross, 1998 a ). Deep acting is likened to antecedent - focused emotion regulation because it pertains to changing one’s cognitive perception of the situation, which may change the emotional response via strategies such as attention deployment ( i.e., altering one’s focus to something that induces the required emotions) and reappraisal

( i.e., cognitively reinterpreting the meaning of emotionally evocative events in unemotional terms in order to enhance or diminish their emotional impact ). S urface acting is akin to

response - foc used emotional regulation


it manipulates the emotional reactions in employee - customer interactions via the suppression (i.e., the conscious inhibition of ongoing emotion - expressive behavior while emotionally aroused) or intensification of actual emot ions felt, or through faking emotions not experienced.

Emotional Labor Outcomes

Previous studies have unearthed a host of both negative and positive outcomes of emotional labor. Overall, most negative outcomes have been linked to surface acting, or , in em otion regulation terms,

suppression of negative emotions (Grandey, 2000; Gross, 1998 b , 1999), whereas deep acting, or reappraisal, has been found to be less detrimental and has yielded more positive outcomes ( Gross, 1999; Liu, Prati, Perrew é , & Ferris, 200 8 ; Martinez - Inigo, Totterdell, Alcover, & Holman, 2007 ). Unfortunately for employees, organizational emotion norms most often pertain to the suppression of negative affect (Domagalski & Steelman, 2005). Service encounters with difficult customers increase the stress and negative emotions


experienced by service workers (Rupp, McCance, & Grandey, 2007; Rupp & Spencer, 2006; Spencer & Rupp, 2009) and negatively impact satisfaction and commitment (Dormann & Zapf, 2004; Grandey, Tam, & Brauburger, 2002; Richmond , 1998).

T he negati ve outcomes of emotional labor impact both the individual’s and

the organization’s well - being. Studies have shown emotional labor to cause emotional exhaustion (i.e., a facet of burnout) and depression (Abraham, 1998; Bono & Vey, 2005;

Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002; Brotheridge & Lee, 2002 ; Chau, 2007 ; Erickson

& Wharton, 1997; Grandey, 2003; Kim, 2008) and other negative symptoms of health (Schaubroeck & Jones, 2000). Surface acting has been found to be related to emotional dissonance (i .e., an aversive psychological state in which one experiences a sense of discrepancy between one’s genuine

and expressed emotions; Hochschild, 1983) and felt inauthenticity (Erickson & Wharton, 1997). Outcomes that are of organizational relevance include

r educed job satisfaction (e.g., Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Hochschild, 1983; Tolich, 1993; Van Maanen & Kunda, 1989)

and decrements in performance (e.g., reduced

task accuracy; Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven, & Tice, 1998 ; Goldberg & Grandey, 2007; Richards & Gross, 1999; Totterdell & Holman, 2003) . Moreover, routinely having to manage one’s

emotions leads to

w ithdrawal behavior s

(e.g., absenteeism ; Bailey, 1996; Cordes & Dougherty, 1993; Grandey, Dickter, & Sin, 2004) , intentions to quit ,

and turnov er ( Chau, 2007 ; Côt é

& Morgan, 2002) . Since h igh turnover rates have been associated with decreased customer satisfaction , this has negative repercussions for the service organization (Koys , 2001) . As mentioned above, overall, the evidence has generally su pported that surface acting is detrimental to health outcomes and performance, while deep acting has a weaker


and even some positive effect s

on such outcomes

(e.g., Judge, Woolf, & Hurst, 2009) .


The list of positive outcomes is a lot shorter, but also affects both the individual and the organization. One of the positive outcomes of emotional labor concerns

an increased feeling of personal accomplishment (Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002). Service workers who engage in deep acting more often, where they actually conjure up

the positive emotions they must express to customers, more frequently experience positive emotions and thus have higher levels of job satisfaction (Fisher, 2000). From the organization’s point of view, the display of positive

emotion can lead to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and repatronage

(Pugh, 2001; Tsai, 2001; Tsai & Huang, 2002) . The better the service experience, the higher the likelihood that the customer will continue to use that particular company’s servi ces. Research on affective delivery

( i.e., the perceived warmth and friendliness of a service encounter )

showed that it is viewed negatively when it is perceived as insincere or false (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Grandey, Fisk, Mattila, Jansen, & Sideman, 2 005 a ). Apparently, others can detect the effort or inner struggle needed to comply with emotional display rules under stressful conditions, and this will bear a negative consequence on rep eat business .

The preced ing literature review summarizes

the pertin ent

findings on

emotional labor. The n ext

section will discuss the paucity


investigations of

intercultural service encounters , as well as

the importance of such scientific inquiry .

The Need f or a n Intercultural Perspective

The body of research surrounding emotional labor has mainly used North American samples, although some

studies ha ve


samples from other countries (e.g., Grandey, Fisk, & Steiner, 2005 b ; Rupp, McCance, Spencer, & Sonntag, 2008) . In a few

cases, service providers from different cultures have been compared ( e.g., Grandey

et al., 2005 b ). However, what is sorely lacking is an investigation into the intercultural service encounter –




service provider and the customer stem from differen t cultural backgrounds . The present study adopts the dynamic constructivist approach

(Hong & Chiu, 2001) , which treats culture as a n internalized

“ network of knowledge and practices that is produced, distributed, and reproduced among […] interconnected peo ple” (Chiu & Hong, 2005, p. 4).

This view regards c ultures as

dynamic open systems that transcend geographical boundaries and evolve over time (Hong & Chiu, 2001). This theoretical perspective provides a broad lens for what constitutes an

intercultural ser vice encounter : It arise s

if a “ foreign ”

customer (of culture A ) consumes a service f rom

a culturally different

pro vider (of culture B ) . Examples of this can be an Italian tourist staying at an American hotel in the U.S.

(different national culture) , or a Hispanic waitress serving an Asian customer in a restaurant

(different ethnic culture) .

With increasing globalization, a growing number of service companies conduct their business with culturally diverse customers

(Stauss & Mang, 1999). Ethnic minorities are growing steadily and increasingly possess more purchasing power (Furrer & Sollberger, 2007). International travel and immigration have seen an explosive growth (Ng, Lee, & Soutar, 2007): Recent estimates show that about 800 million tourists traveled ov erseas in 2006 (World Tourism Organization, 2007), and about 200 million people live outside their countries of origin (United Nations, 2006). It


becomes imperative to ask

(Winsted, 1997) : Does good service mean the same thing for everyone ? Or do cons umers with different cultural backgrounds

expect different types of treatment ?

Intercultural Service Encounters

I ndeed, prior research shows that customers from

different cultural backgrounds have different expectations and perceptions of

and attitudes toward service encounters , and that this affects service interactions and evaluations

( Mann, 2007; Mattila, 1999; Stauss & Mang, 1999 ;


Zhang, Beatty, & Walsh, 2008 ) .

Th e service encounter, which is defined as a “dyadic interaction between a c ustomer and a service provider” (Surprenant & Solomon, 1987, p. 87) and a “form of human interaction” (Czepiel , Solomon, Surprenant, & Gutman , 1985, p. 14) , is characterized by its

intangible nature . C onsequen tly, services are evaluated

to a large extent b y

experien tial

qualities . These are quality attributes that can only be assessed

during the service d elivery process (Zeithaml, Berry, & Parasuraman, 19 93 ). Hence ,

quality perception takes place in the encounter situation

and depends on the success of the service encounter

(Stauss & Mang, 1999).

When the service provider and the customer share the same cultural background, service encounters often play out almost

automatic ally

and require only

a minimum of cognitive activity

(Stauss &

Mang, 1999; Surprenant & Solomon, 1987). Interactions with customers are social exchanges that are repetitive and routine in nature, and are therefore likely to be scripted (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Grandey & Brauburger, 2003; Morris & Feldman, 1996). S cripts are cognitive schemata that are generated in long - term memory after an individual experiences a series of similar episodes (Schank & Abelson, 1977). They help reduce cognitive load because they prescribe a predetermined sequence of actions. Individu als simply play their part. A situational cue immediately and automatically sparks the appropriate emotional display. However, when the experience deviates from the service script,

a challenge arises. Hence, intercultural service encounters are bound to be

more conscious and effortful (Stauss & Mang, 1999). As mentioned above, c ulture can be defined as the sum of all behavioral norms and patterns collectively shared by a so cial group ( Chiu & Hong, 2005; Usunier, 1993). Therefore , when individuals from diffe rent cultures interact, many obstacles can surface. Problems may occur because the performance of the service provider does not meet the expectations of the customer, or because the customer does not exhibit the role behavior expected by the service


provid er. For instance, unofficial “rules” for tipping vary greatly across different cultures –

not merely between different national cultures, but even between groups of varying

socioeconomic status.

First Investigations

The service management literature has r ecognized the need to investigate intercultural service encounters. In a study comparing service encounter evaluations of American and Japanese restaurant guests, Winsted (1997)

found differences in

the relative importance customers placed on

eight service

encounter dimensions: authenticity of behavior, caring, customer control, courtesy, friendliness, formality, personalization, and promptness. It is noteworthy that half of these dimensions, namely authenticity, caring, courtesy, and friendliness, can be s een as related to or resulting from emotional labor.

Stauss and Mang (1999) tested a model of intercultural service encounter quality employing a critical incident technique with a sample of air travelers from the U.S., Japan, and Germany. They found that

sometimes, intercultural service encounters are actually perceived as less problematic than intracultural encounters.

This is an interesting finding that might be explained by the fact that foreign customers regularly settle for a lower service quality standard. However, as the authors themselves concede, their study represents a single qualitative study and is only a sta rting point for more inquiry. Barker



(2004) conducted an exploratory qualitative study and found that based on the verbal and nonverbal behaviors of the service employees, culturally diverse customers from a different ethnic background feel that

they receive inequitable service and are not very satisfied. Interviews revealed that among other issues, foreign customers perceived service providers as treating them with an unfriendly or sarcastic tone of voice, more suspicion and lack of trust (i.e.,

thinking the customer might steal), general


avoidance (e.g., not acknowledging the customer’s presence, serving someone else first), and less effort.

Most recently, Sharma, Tam, and Kim (2009) proposed a conceptual framework for intercultural service enc ounters that focuses on perceived cultural distance and cultural competence. These authors conducted an exploratory qualitative study in which they interviewed customers and employees from different cultures in a variety of service settings. They found pre liminary support for their model, concluding that perceived cultural distance and cultural competence influence inter - role congruence

(i.e., the degree of agreement between both parties on each other’s role in a social interaction) , interaction comfort, ad equate service level (i.e., the minimum level of service that the customer is will ing to

accept), perceived service quality , and satisfaction.

These initial findings demonstrate

the importance of investigating intercultural service encounters. What is lac king from this line of research from an Industrial/Organizational Psychology standpoint is a scientifically rigorous study that focus es

on the service employee. What traits does he or she need to possess in order to handle an intercultural service interact ion well? How do such interactions impact the physiological and psychological health of the service employee? The answers to these questions carry

implications for selection criteria as well as training interventions


employees in boundary spanning roles who have frequent

contact with a diverse

clientele .

Cultural Competence : The Key to Intercultural Service Quality?

In the context of intercultural service encounters, important parameters are the cultural differences that exist between the parties involved in the encounter , individual differences due to personality and life history, and intercultural knowledge and experiences (Stauss & Mang, 1999).


Stauss and Mang (1999) stated that

“If the employees have inter - cultura l experience, and if they are aware of the verbal and non - verbal codes used in different cultural areas, they are able to vary their body language, e.g. eye contact, in order to adapt to the type and scop e of the explicit information” . This statement echoe s

definitions of cultural competence .

The literature is full of co nstructs that all fall under the umbrella of cultural competence: intercultural sensitivity (i.e., the ability to detect and discriminate between relevant cultural differences; Bhawuk &

Brislin, 1992; Chiu & Hong, 2005; Hammer, Bennett, & Wiseman, 2003), intercultural effectiveness (i.e., t he general assessment

of the ability for effective intercultural communication ; Cui &

Awa ,

1992; Hammer, Gudykunst, &

Wiseman , 1978),

and cultural int elligence

(i.e., an individual’s capability to function and manage effectively in new and culturally diverse contexts ; Earley &

Ang , 2003) , to name only a few. Common to all these definitions


self - awareness and - understanding, knowledge of

others whose cultural origins and values are different f rom one’s

own, and adapting one's

own behavior

to the needs of culturally diverse groups (e.g., Hansen, Pepitone - Arreola - Rockwell ,

& Greene, 2000) . C ultural competence is a culture - free, etic construct that is mul tidimensional and incorporates both mental and b ehavioral components, and that is important for

interact ing

effectively with members of other cultures. The present study posits cultural competence as a main factor to predict how efficiently a service provi der can handle intercultural service encounters , using self - reported cultural self - efficacy as a proxy for cultural competence .

In accordance with the dynamic constructivist approach to culture (Hong & Chiu, 2001) adopted for this study, I use the cultural

competence framework recently developed by Earley and Ang (2003), which captures aspects that are central to efficient performance in intercultural service encounters : metacognition, cognition, motivation, and behavior . This system of


interacting knowledg e and skills, linked by cultural metacognition, explains how

individuals can flexibly adapt to the cultural aspects of their environment (Thomas et al., 2008).

Metacognition and cognition encompass the skills needed to conceptualize culture and develop pat terns from cultural cues. The former, which is defined as the knowledge of and control over one’s thinking and learning activities (Flavell, 1979; Swanson, 1990), refers to the processes involved in acquiring and understanding knowledge related to culture;

the latter refers to general knowledge about culture and cultural differences. Motivation pertains to the idea that directing and sustaining energy to engage in cognitive processes, acquire knowledge about other cultures, and make an effort to act positiv ely toward culturally different others is a central facet of cultural competence. The behavioral dimension represents the outward manifestations of cultural competence : t he capability to engage in culturally adaptive and appropriate behaviors. This framewo rk possesses great utility explaining an individual’s capability to function and manage effectively in new and culturally diverse contexts (Ang, Van Dyne, Koh, Ng, Templer, Tay et al., 2007).

An important aspect of cultural competence

is its dynamic nature. It involves continuous learning from social interactions, which includes an appreciation of the critical differences between cultures and good perceptual skills (Thomas et al., 2008). Crucial factors in this process are open - mindedn ess, uncertainty tolerance, being non - judgmental, flexible, sociable, and empathic

factors similar in nature to the facets of Openness to Experience, one of the Big Five personality factors ( Costa & McCrae, 1992; McCrae, 1996 ). Furthermore , the more freq uently intercultural encounters are experienced, the more opportunity to learn exists. In the episodic view of cultural competence

(Thomas et al., 2008), an intercultural encounter elicits reflection on the experience (i.e., metacognition), which lead s

to gains in knowledge and skills (i.e.,



D uring the next interaction, adaptive and effective behavior can be employed (i.e., behavior), and the resulting outcome can again be reflected upon, so that the knowledge and skills can be modified if neces sary. This dynamic, episodic , and internal


is best captured by collecting the data via

experience sampling methodology ( B ea l & Weiss, 2003 ).

C ulturally competent individuals have greater knowledge about other cultures and are able to use this knowledge effectively with culturally different others (Earley, Murnieks, & Mosakowski ,


They are able to suspend

judgment in an intercultural i ntera ction until they have

more information beyond the ethnicity of the other person,

are more aware of the nuances of different cultures,

and are able to use this knowledge to adjust their own

behavior (Triandis ,


H igh intercultural sensitivity is


to increased

service attentiveness, revenue contribution, interpersonal skills, job satisfaction, and social satisfaction for employees (Sizoo, Plank, Iskat, & Serrie, 2005), and service employees’ cultural competence is

found to be

positively related wit h customer satisfaction (Yu, Weiler, & Ham, 2001).

As mentioned above, Sharma and colleagues (2009) have gathered

preliminary evidence that in intercultural service provision, lack ing

awareness about

elements of the other’s culture that are related to key service attributes (e.g., service with a smile, touching or joking with each other) may cause misunderstanding and diminished satisfaction. While individuals tend to see the world through their own cultural lens, they are indeed capable of acquiring and mo mentarily adopting a different lens (Chiu & Hong, 2005). In fact, the ability to assume different cultural perspectives allows individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds to establish common ground, and helps them navigate a globally interconnected world

with increasingly blurry cultural boundaries (Chiu & Hong, 2005).


Th e literature review ed

above la ys

the theoretical foundation for the proposed theoretical model

(see Figure 1) and establishes t he need to

investigat e emotional labor in an intercultural service context . In t he next section , I

will present the theory and empirical results that substantiate

the hypothesized relatio nships.

An Intrapersonal Model of Emotional Labor in Intercultural Service Encounters

This study proposes and te sts an intraperso nal model of emotional labor in

intercultural service encounters . Figure 1 depicts the entire proposed model. The model focuses on the service employee , thus filling a gap in previous research on intercultura l service situations, which has

typically focused on the customer.

I argue that the service provider’s extent of multicultural experience (H1) and openness to experience (H2) are associated with higher levels of cultural competence. Openness is also posited to have both direct (H3A,B) and indirect (H4A,B) effects on deep and surface acting. As for the direct link between cultural competence and emotional labor, I expect that h igher levels of cultural competence should be associated with higher levels of deep acting (H5A); whereas lower levels of cultural competence should be linked to higher levels of surface acting (H5B). Moreover, I expect individuals high on cultural competence to exhibit higher levels of performance (H6). The model also posits a mediating effect of emotional labor in the cultural competence - performance relationship: Individuals high in cultural competence are expected to engage in more deep acting, which should result in better performance (H7A). On the con trary, individuals low in cultural competence are expected to engage in more surface acting, which should lead to lower levels of performance (H7B). Finally, I expect cultural competence and emotional exhaustion to be indirectly related through emotional l abor, such that culturally competent individuals are posited to engage in more deep acting and should thus experience less

Full document contains 100 pages
Abstract: The body of literature surrounding emotional labor, defined as service employees' effort to manage their emotions to meet organizational goals (Hochschild, 1983; Morris & Feldman, 1996), exhibits a severe lack of studies examining intercultural service encounters (i.e., service episodes in which a provider from culture A delivers a service to a customer from culture B; Stauss & Mang, 1999). This dissertation posits an intrapersonal model of emotional labor in intercultural service encounters. Central to this model is the construct of cultural competence (Earley & Ang, 2003), which is defined as the ability to adapt effectively and flexibly in culturally diverse settings. Using experience sampling methodology with a hospitality industry sample, I found that cultural competence was associated with deep acting and performance. Openness to experience predicted cultural competence through active seeking of multicultural experience (i.e., multicultural personality). Implications for the selection (based on openness) and training (for deep acting and cultural competence) of service providers in an increasingly globalized service industry are discussed.