Successful Performance of emotional labour is a matter of ‗right‘ personality: A Review of Literature in reference to hospitality industry

By Neelu Tuteja Nikhanj, MBA, Research Scholar, Banasthali University, Rajasthan

1. Introduction and Rationale

With round-the-clock guest service demands, hospitality industry managers must perform their jobs in a frequently stressful environment. In the hospitality industry, managers face constant challenges from a dynamic and unpredictable environment, including seasonality, availability of labour, commodity shortage, mechanical failure and dependence on suppliers, which increases levels of stress (Krone, Tabacchi, & Farber, 1989). The fatiguing work conditions in the hospitality industry may make managers emotionally strained, even if they do not often interact with customers directly. As a result, many talented, young managers who industry executives do not want to lose leave the industry at the first opportunity because they feel emotionally exhausted and burned out.

Emotions in organizations have found increasing interest among academicians and practitioners recently (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1995; Ashkanasy, Hartel, & Daus, 2002; Briner, 1999). One of the topics is emotional labor. The concept of emotional labor was introduced by Hochschild (1979, 1983) and is defined as ‗‗the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display.‘‘

As organizations are increasingly concentrating on customer relations in an attempt to enhance their competitive position, the nature of job role requirements has changed. The expression of organizationally desired emotions has been considered as part of the work role nowadays (Rafaeli & Sutton, 1987). Consequently, employees are expected to engage in not only physical and intellectual labor, but also emotional labor (Chu & Murrmann, 2006; Sharpe, 2005; Zapf, 2002).

Zapf (2002) concluded that the emotional labor is more important in the service sector than in other sectors for several reasons. First, the assessment of the quality of service is often difficult. Second, the service product is immediately consumed and corrections, such as giving the product back, are not possible. Third, emotional labor should influence the customers‘ emotions, thereby, also influencin g their cognitions and behaviors. Fourth, influencing a customer‘s emotion may make other things easier.

it is still largely unrecognised in day-to-day work environments (Karabanow. and neuroticism were the most frequently emerging personality traits associated with vocational behaviors. Guerrier & Adib. and also in the manner in which individuals handle stressful situations. Morris & Feldman. noted that extraversion. this process of emotion management has come to be known as ‗emotional labour‘. Acknowledging how demanding and stressful work environments have become. 1999). The management of such emotional display is known as ‗emotional labour‘. as their jobs involve direct customer contact. 1987). and (c) the display of emotions has to follow certain rules. 2005. Kim et al. Tokar et al. 1997. p. 2003). studies focusing on human behavior and coping strategies have been conducted in order to better understand the association between personality and performance of emotional labor. both in the experience of job-related distress. Constanti & Gibbs.1 Emotional labour – Emotional labour possesses the following characteristics (Hochschild. 1983. Although in recent years. For example. and that personality traits play an important role. Review of Literature and Conceptual considerations 2. attitudes. The nature of speaking and acting in such work involves displaying emotions. Zapf. The hospitality and tourism industry seems to offer one of these instances (e. which demonstrate a willingness to be of service. (1998). 2. (b) emotions are displayed to influence other people‘s emotions. Morris and Feldman (1996. conscientiousness. 2002): (a) emotional labour occurs in face-to-face or voice-to-voice interactions with customers. 990) cite Hochschild (1983) to explain that emotional labour is performed in one of two ways: • Surface acting: involves simulating emotions that are not actually felt. 2009) have argued that individual differences are fundamental in explaining reports on performance of emotional labor. in their review of the literature on the Big Five and occupational behaviour from 1993 to 1997. and behaviors.g. Researchers (Kim et al. . 2007. Many workers in the tourism industry can be classified as ‗front -line‘ service workers. The skill with which emotional labour is performed contributes significantly to perceptions of service quality..The most valuable occupations for emotional labor research are those in which the demands on emotional expression or experience are strongest (Rafaeli & Sutton.

it seemed to me. Indeed. 98) in discussing the selection of Delta airlines trainees. Burnout can lead to deterioration in the quality of service provided and appears to be a contributor to job turnover. especially to the emotional strain of dealing extensively with other people (Ledgerwood. 1981). p.99). Crotts. The positive effects of the performance of emotional labour lead to personal accomplishment and such employees genuinely enjoy their customer service work and take pride in presenting a professional image to their customers. service workers must manage their own emotions and emotional display to create a favourable atmosphere in which the interpersonal transaction takes place. In other words. One of the negative consequences of the performance of such labour is ‗burnout‘. & Everett. 1981. were also chosen for their ability to take stage directions about how to „project‟ an image. p. The idea of ‗deep acting‘ is succinctly put by Mann: ‗feelings are actively induced as the actor ‗psychs‘ him/herself into the desired persona‘ (1997. a syndrome of emotional exhaustion and cynicism observed among people who do ‗people work‘. Hochschild (1983. It is defined as a syndrome of emotional exhaustion from one‘s work in response to chronic organizational stressors (Maslach & Jackson. As a result of the emotional exhaustion experienced.2 Emotional Exhaustion/ Burnout Burnout is a metaphor commonly used to describe a state of mental weariness (Schaufeli & Bakker. 1998). The burnout syndrome is prevalent among individuals who do people-work of some kind (Maslach & Jackson. Of particular concern to managers and service workers alike is one particular negative consequence of the performance of emotional labour. p. They were selected for being able to act well – that is. known as burnout. 2004). 2.7). They had to be able to appear at home on stage.• Deep acting: involves attempts to actually experience the emotions one is required to display. without showing the effort involved. depending on how it is performed. commented: The trainees. It is generally recognised that there can be either positive or negative consequences for those performing emotional labour. workers feel that they cannot give of themselves any longer. 1981). such as the hospitality industry. absenteeism and low morale (Maslach and Jackson. There are well-known findings about the .

―the dynami c organization within the individual of those psychological systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment‖ (cited by Robbins and Judge 2007. pp. and disturbance in family and social lives (Maslach. People with positive emotional stability tend to be calm. 1997). High agreeableness people— cooperative. 2007) and constitutes the following:   Extraversion. employees are more likely to experience emotional exhaustion in such jobs that require emotional control (Brotheridge & Grandey. Low agreeableness people—cold. assertive. 2001. Furthermore. and persistent. In the late 1990s. occupations that more frequently deal with interpersonal relations. Maslach & Leiter. the concept of burnout was broadened to occupations beyond pure human service and was broadened to managers. 1961 cited by Robbins and Judge.  Conscientiousness.major costs that organisations often incur through absenteeism. 639. and unreliable. 2001. dependable. Extroverts tend to be gregarious. increases in turnover. Individual‘s propensity to defer to others. p. timid. Those who score low on this dimension are easily distracted. as well (Maslach et al. A measure of reliability. and insecure. disorganized. and antagonistic. and quiet. A person‘s ability to withstand stress.1994). 2. Cameron. Agreeableness. 106). 1995. and trusting. 2002). such as service representatives. The nature of occupations also appears to be related to emotional exhaustion. and which is usually described via a set of measurable traits that we exhibit.3 Personality and Big Five Model The most frequently used definition of personality is that of Allport (1937). are more likely to have higher employee emotional strain (Brotheridge & Grandey.. & Armstrong-Stassen. and negative personal outcomes such as alcohol and drug use. . 668). disagreeable. 2002). In other words it is the conglomerate of the ways in which we interact and react to those around us. and secure. It adversely influence organizational outcomes with decreases in job satisfaction and performance. & Leiter. Schaufeli. warm. depressed. physical and mental illness. labour turnover and accidents (Ivancevich. self-confident. anxious. organized. One model which has been used extensively in personality research is the five-factor model of personality (Tupes and Christal. Those with high negative scores tend to be nervous. Comfort level with relationships. For instance. Introverts tend to be reserved. Horsburg.  Emotional stability (sometimes referred to as neuroticism). and sociable. A high conscientious person is responsible.

Personal coping resources include health and energy (a physical resource). People under stress may be able to draw on a number of personal and external coping resources. distancing. They suggest that ‗coping is thus a shifting process in which a person must. curious. rely more heavily on one form of coping. Problem-focussed coping strategies include reducing ego involvement or learning new skills and procedures (Lazarus and Folkman.(p. Emotionfocussed coping strategies include avoidance. pp. coping is defined by Lazarus and Folkman (1984) as: constantly changing cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person (p. Findings and Discussion: The complexity of the study of emotional labour is highlighted by the number of strands of literature drawn together in this review. Openness to experience. and artistically sensitive. and at other times on problem-solving strategies. The range of interests and fascination with novelty. 1984. The nature of emotional labour. and wresting positive value from negative events. the coping strategies used by those called upon to perform it. say defensive strategies. 2000). Some cognitive types of emotion-focussed coping strategies result in a change in the way an encounter is construed. Coping strategies have been classified as being emotion-focussed or problem-focussed. and seeking emotional support are also emotion-focussed coping strategies. and human resource management issues of working in teams. 3. 150–2). Those at the other end of the openness category are conventional and find comfort in the familiar. which is equivalent to reappraisal. as the status of the person-environment relationship changes‘. minimisation. 141). having a drink. 110) This model has been labeled ‗Big Five‘ having revolutionized personality psychology (Judge and Bono. its impact together with that of the personality of the service workers on perceptions of service quality. positive beliefs (a . Extremely open people are creative. 3. Behavioural strategies which include engaging in physical exercise to take one‘s mind off the problem. venting anger.1 Coping Strategies More generally. at certain times. selection and training of service workers are discussed.

and appearance of personnel Reliability: ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately Responsiveness: willingness to help customers and provide prompt service Assurance: knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to inspire trust and confidence Empathy: caring. and empathy – have potentially high emotional content. 1988):      Tangibles: physical facilities. which has the following five dimensions.psychological resource). on the skills. 1984. This makes it natural to suggest that the quality of service depends in part..3 HRM Practices: The importance of a systematic approach to selection cannot be overemphasised (Emenheiser. On the basis of exploratory research. equipment. Thus. and problem-solving and social skills (competencies) (Lazarus and Folkman.2 Impact of Performance of Emotional Labor on Perception of Service Quality: The performance of emotional labour involves the display of organisationally desired emotion. has been developed (Parasuraman et al. and Buckley.. attitudes and personality traits of the service providers (Chait. the quality of service can be enhanced by the selection of individuals who have the necessary personal characteristics (Chait et al. 1998). Carraher. such as friendliness. the SERVQUAL scale of service quality. 2000). assurance. Conscientiousness and Culture. and Palakurthi. 54) suggest that three of these five dimensions – responsiveness. The traits associated with Extraversion. individualised attention the firm provides its customers Bailey and McCollough (2000. p. Clay. Furthermore. It is a significant activity as the skill with which emotional labour is performed impacts on perceptions of service quality. such as being sociable and gregarious have been shown to lead to effective performance for managers and sales personnel (Barrick and Mount. 159). Another contributing factor to perceptions of service quality is the personality of service workers. External coping resources include social and material resources (p. Cran (1994. p. 2000). as the service exchange is essentially a social interaction. 3. Extraversion. by customer service workers in their interactions with customers or clients. namely. Agreeableness. Researchers are generally in agreement about the ‗big five factors‘ of personality. p. 1991). Emotional Stability. 243) 3. 37-8) suggests that ‗if service is regarded as a key .

the industry often laments the low skills base of much of its workforce. as service workers differ in service orientation. dependent on the capability and enthusiasm of its frontline staff in order to deliver quality products and services with consistency. the industry rightly proclaims itself as a „people industry‟. it can be said that managers and service workers in the industry have agreed that the ability to perform emotional labour is a matter of ‗personality‘. particularly of front-office staff. Training and coaching can provide service workers with a repertoire of quality service behaviours (Lundberg. Indeed. there is a growing awareness of the need to carefully select employees. the importance of staff training programs is widely recognised. as customer relations‘ skills. as reported by MacHatton et al. Waryszak and Bauer. high levels of communication and interpersonal skills are required from many of these same low-skilled workers. with more consideration being given to the personality of potential employees. p. customer perceptions of service quality (Lundberg. on the basis of the personality factors outlined above. 1993). 1991). However. in the hotel industry. are vital. 1995. 1994). At the same time. in recognition of the emotional demands on those with front-line jobs (Berger and Ghei. it could be said that any training may be of limited value if the service workers are lacking in personality traits associated with Extraversion and Culture. so do they differ in their receptiveness to training (Cran. However. abilities or knowledge in employee selection. The importance of ‗personality‘ is also reflected in selection. While it has been acknowledged that sound human resource management practices in respect to the selection and training of service workers will contribute to the effective performance of emotional labour and hence. advancement or placement decisions‘. Indeed. After selection. 1991). there seems some question about how well such practices are used in the tourism and hospitality industry. which was seen as being more important than technical skills. (1997) and Waryszak and Bauer (1993). . Thus. This view resulted in the selection and training of workers considered to have the ‗right personality‘. 76) observe that: On one hand. as there is evidence of the use of personality testing and interviews when filling senior management positions. as they are less sociable and gregarious by nature. 1996.job factor individual service orientation should hold as high a priority as skills. who are the „public face‟ of their organisations. companies are recognising the need to carefully screen applicants. and have less positive attitudes towards relevant learning. Kuemmler and Kleiner. Nevertheless. Baum and Nickson (1998. in order to provide excellent service.

1995). The personality that possibly displays appropriate emotions rather than skills is our most concern.g. reliable. Zapf & Holz. These determine how an individual interacts with and responds to others and how she/he expresses her or his emotions. Female tour leaders are more effective at sensing people‘s feelings and do a better job of caring and empathizing. . Zapf & Holz. tour leaders in Taiwan were interviewed and the following responses were obtained: Certain personality traits are prerequisite for being a successful tour leader. 2000. female. Kruml & Geddes. In a research by Jehn-Yih Wong. Brotheridge & Grandey. 2005. 1995. Chih-Hung Wang on Emotional Labor of the tour leaders: An exploratory study. Since the emotions that ought to be expressed vary. while male tour leaders are more capable of showing calm. tour leaders concluded that both male and female tour leaders can make things right in their own ways.. 35 years old. We didn‟t actually look for people with experience or good skills. male. Women typically tend to understand people‘s feelings better than men and do more emotional work both at work and at home (e. because of personality can‟t be trained (Peter.g.g.. Personality is considered as one of the most important individual characteristics that affect how an individual performs emotional labor (Diefendorff et al.Wharton & Erickson. 2005. and steady attitudes. A tour leader with a good personality often can express and transmit the right emotions to smooth over difficulties. (Joan...4 Personality Traits and the performance of Emotional Labor: Individual characteristics affect how an individual performs emotional labor (e. a tour leader for 8 years). Kruml & Geddes. 1993. Even if few studies (e. Constanti & Gibbs. Diefendorff et al. We wanted people that had a certain personality more than the skills because we felt we could train people to do the job. holding current position for 7 years). vice-general manager. 2006).3. Both female and male have their own successful characteristics for this job. 2002. 2005. Wharton & Erickson. Wharton & Erickson.. 51 years old. other findings have revealed a general consensus that one has to possess certain traits and characteristics in order to perform this type of work successfully. 2006). 2000) recommended that the ability to perform emotional labor is trainable. Another aspect of female personality attributes being more successful in performing the people work was highlighted in this research. 2000. Kruml & Geddes.

their responses generally focused on personal attributes. rather than ‗hard‘ skills.5 Personality Traits and Emotional Exhaustion/Burnout A majority of burnout/emotional exhaustion studies have focused on occupation-related characteristics (Cordes & Dougherty. a series of interviews were conducted with managers and service workers in the accommodation. I think that‟s probably the biggest skill. in their customer service work. and interpersonal skills (‗soft‘ skills). I was born that way. hospitality. Indeed. more readily acknowledged the importance of personal attributes (such as being a people person) and communication skills. hospitality) I tend to look at mainly the personalities of the person and their characters and their nature I think… it‟s important because those type of things you can‟t train people for. I always have been. to be honest – 60% personality and the way they sell themselves and 40% what they‟ve actually done on paper. 3. really good people person …(Annabelle. such as job knowledge. such as being a people person. 1993). which they used in their customer service work. (Claire. Although a number of empirical studies have found . so what‟s most important is the personality of staff members that I‟m requiring… (Lachlan. which could be interpreted as their endorsement of the need to be gregarious and sociable. for example listening. (Michael. rather than the hard skills. manager. bus tour company) Thus. the importance of personality. tourism information and transportation sectors of the tourism and hospitality industry in South Australia. um. just I‟m a really. it appears that managers and service workers equated the performance of emotional labour with ‗the right personality‘ and ‗being a people person‘. In discussing the emphasis put on the performance aspects of the job as opposed to the service aspects in the selection process. From these comments. manager. managers often referred to the importance of the right ‗personality‘: My personal opinion is that anyone can be trained to do the job. I‟m very confident. such as job knowledge. manager. traits associated with Extraversion. …. accommodation) So it‟s probably 60/40. in the sense of being a people person was regularly mentioned: “I am an excellent people person.In another research conducted by Barbara Anderson. it is clear that the service workers themselves. Chris Provis and Shirley Chappel “ The recognition and management of emotional labor – a CRC tourism research report”. When the service workers were asked about the skills. after due contemplation. hospitality) A number of the service workers also commented on the importance of being a ‗people-person‘.

it can be concluded that personality could be considered as a determining variable to predict an individual‘s ability to display emotions appropriately. Because of their essentially negative nature. Schaufeli. Conscientious individuals are efficient. Perrewe. 1992). but neuroticism and extraversion are statistically related to emotional exhaustion (Kim et al. 4. 1981). Hence. While neuroticism is associated with negative life events. within the same occupational context. it can be said that emotional labour. Conclusion & Research Implications In concluding this brief literature review. 1983. Vollrath & Torgersen. some employees may experience lower or higher levels of emotional exhaustion than others. Maslach & Jackson. ambitious. and therefore. hardworking. Because of their tendency to be optimistic about the future. extroverts are expected to experience lower levels of emotional exhaustion. Individuals open to experience tend to experience both the good and bad more intensely (Costa & McCrae. individuals high in neuroticism experience more distress than do individuals low in neuroticism (George. 1998. 2000). competent. 1992). 2007). may experience higher levels of emotional exhaustion. extroversion is the primary source of positive affectivity. Recent empirical research has reported that agreeableness. extroverts are predisposed to experience positive emotions (Costa & McCrae. Extraverts tend to exhibit optimism that things will work out.g. That is.significant influences of occupational stressors on employee‘s experience of emotional exhaustion. 1991). 2001.. can be viewed as a ‗performance‘. the expression of organisationally desired emotion in interpersonal transactions. & Leiter.. and openness to experience have no significant relationship with emotional exhaustion.. conscientiousness. Agreeable individuals have greater motivation to achieve interpersonal intimacy. 1996). Tokar et al. 1984). & Hochwarter. This research . age) as significant determinants of emotional exhaustion (Gaines & Jermier. 1961). and dependable (Block. Industry psychologists have reported that personality traits make a difference in coping with work stress (Maslach. which tends to be related to happiness (McCrae & Costa. A number of studies explained these individual differences in burnout/emotional exhaustion levels using demographics (e. these studies have not yet provided explanations for individual differences in emotional exhaustion levels given the same kinds and intensity of occupation stress (Zellars. which has positive or negative consequences for those called upon to perform it and it is highly a function of ‗personality‘. Thus. 2000) Neuroticism has been described as the primary source of negative affectivity (Watson & Hubbard.

rather than their technical abilities. If. promote and invest in developing those individuals who do not exhibit such a trait. is often the basis on which managers made decisions about the provision of further training opportunities. areas in which consideration for further training to be supplied include communication and conflict resolution skills. for many the prime dimension of burnout. allowing them to cope more effectively with the challenges of customer service work and hence. This can be combined with selection procedures that take into account the personality traits of individuals particularly agreeableness and conscientiousness. these findings have a practical relevance for both hotel stakeholders and academic scholars who wish to further explore the emotional labour-personality association.g. in a manner. Selection: the criteria for the selection of customer service workers should assess the interpersonal skills and the personality of potential employees. Saucier. . with managers and co-workers. 1992. From the previous studies conducted with managers about the selection of service workers. 2. it became evident that greater emphasis is placed on the interpersonal skills and the personality (the ‗right‘ personality) of prospective employees. Moreover. It is recommended that organisational policies and practices be reviewed as to their adequacy in the following areas: 1. selection and training strategies for management and leadership positions. Several scales (e. These findings have a number of implications for service organisations relating to the management of their customer service workers. as the findings suggests. neuroticism has a positive impact on emotional exhaustion. Hotel establishments can utilize the findings when developing their recruitment. Goldberg. practitioners may thus include one of these scale as part of the selection procedure to screen candidates who can display emotions appropriately. both positive and negative. then the rationale exists to recruit. this finding should offer guidance in the employee selection process.. which is consistent with the definition of ‗personality‘ within the particular organisational context. Having the ‗right‘ personality (however that was defined in each organisational context).1994) have been introduced to depict the personality of an individual. 3. and for practitioners. Training: related to selection. Organisational culture: the fostering of a supportive environment in which workers are encouraged to share their experiences. display a more consistently welcoming demeanour towards customers.concludes that there are organizational and individual benefits of extraverted people being employed in hotel organizations.

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