The term "emotional labor" was first coined by Hochshild
(1983) and is used to refer to the expression of organizationally
desired emotions by service workers during interpersonal transactions or
encounters with clients (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Hochschild,
1983). Previous work in this area generally supports Hochschild's
(1983) proposition that emotional labor does and can have both
functional and dysfunctional consequences for the individual and the
organization. In a similar vein, Morris and Feldman (1996) and Kim
(2008) regard emotional labor as having double-edged effects: It can
have positive influence on organizational success but negative impact on
A review of the extant literature, however, revealed that the
findings on the consequences of emotional labor remain conflicting. One
plausible reason could be that emotional labor has been operationalized
in various ways. Some researchers view emotional labor as a
two-dimensional construct (e.g., Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002;
Grandey, 2000; Gross, 1998; Kruml & Geddes, 2000), whereas others
opt for a multidimensional perspective (e.g., Brotheridge & Lee,
1998; 2003; Diefendorff, Croyle, & Gosserand, 2005; Morris &
Feldman, 1996). Clearly, there is a lack of consensus about the
dimensionality of emotional labor. Given the above, our study hoped to
add to the research stream by further clarifying the dimensionality of
emotional labor in the Malaysian setting. Specifically, we assessed the
validity (content, construct, convergent, nomological, and discriminant)
and reliability of Brotheridge and Lee's (1998) six-dimensional
scale of emotional labor. The remainder of the paper is organized in the
following manner: First, the concept of emotional labor including its
consequences and dimensionality will be explored. Next, we will detail
the research methodology and the findings. Finally, the implications and
limitations of the study will be presented.
2. THE CONSEQUENCES OF EMOTIONAL LABOR
Emotional labor is said to have double-edged effects such that it
enhances organizational success but at the same time is detrimental to
employees' well-being. At the organizational level, there has been
a growing connection of emotional labor to economic trends (Zeithaml,
Parasuraman, & Berry, 1990) such that surface acting and deep acting
enable employees to successfully achieve organizational goals (Johnson,
2004). Specifically, it has been reported that emotional labor
influences perception of service quality (Bowen, Siehl, & Schneider,
1989), affects customer loyalty, repeat business, financial gains
(Heskett, Schlesinger, & Sasser, 1997), client satisfaction and
organizational productivity (Meier, Mastracci, & Wilson, 2006). On
the other hand, research conducted at the individual level has typically
demonstrated that emotional labor can affect workers' well-being
(Johnson & Spector, 2007), job satisfaction (Ang, Rostinah, Japang,
& Nasah, 2009; Jones, 1998; Yang & Chang, 2008), emotional
exhaustion (Ang et al., 2009; Johnson & Spector, 2007; Kim, 2008),
organizational commitment (Abraham, 1999; Yang & Chang, 2008),
intent to leave (Abraham, 1999), turnover (Meier et al., 2006),
work-family conflict (Seery, Corrigall, & Harpel, 2008), and so
forth. Generally, the influence of emotional labor on employee outcomes
such as health, psychological well-being, and work attitudes has
generally been reported to be less favorable. However, some studies
(e.g., Adelmann, 1995; Johnson, 2004; Wharton, 1993) have reported
otherwise. For instance, Wharton (1993) did not find a negative
relationship but a positive relationship between emotional labor and job
satisfaction. Wharton's (1993) argument is that the positive or
negative outcome of emotional labor on employee outcomes depends on the
performance technique which the employee chooses to use. For instance,
some researchers (Gross, 1989; King & Emmons, 1990; Smith, 1992)
reported that suppressing negative emotions (i.e., surface acting) over
time can cause a variety of ailments such as high blood pressure and
cancer. Conversely, the expression of positive emotions (i.e., to deep
acting) may bring about physiological changes that can in turn enhance
employees' well-being (Zajonc, 1985).
The majority of past research assessing the relationship between
emotional labor and employee outcomes has in fact demonstrated that deep
acting leads to more favorable outcomes than does surface acting (Kim,
2008). Still, empirical findings in other studies remain inconsistent
(Van Dijk & Kirk, 2006). For instance, Brotheridge and Lee (2003)
and Grandey (2003) did not find support for the association between deep
acting and emotional exhaustion. As mentioned earlier, the reason for
these conflicting findings could be due to the varying
conceptualizations of emotional labor. Several researchers (e.g., Fisher
& Ashkanasy, 2000; Grandey, 2000) propound that if discussing the
consequences of emotional labor without fully understanding its
dimensionality, researchers will continue to produce fragmented works
that can further bring about more confusion to the area of study. Given
that, this study attempts to shed more light on the dimensionality of
emotional labor by drawing evidence from an east Malaysian sample.
Understanding the dimensions of emotional labor would allow researchers
to better differentiate emotional labor and clarify its relationships
with various factors under different circumstances.
3. THE DIMENSIONALITY OF EMOTIONAL LABOR
Emotion work has churned out various perspectives of emotional
labor, ranging from two dimensions (e.g., Brotheridge & Grandey,
2002; Grandey, 2000; Gross, 1998; Kruml & Geddes, 2000) to
multidimensions (e.g., Brotheridge & Lee, 1998; 2003; Diefendorff et
al., 2005; Morris & Feldman, 1996). This section will discuss the
various conceptualizations of emotional labor found in the literature.
It will then deliberate on Brotheridge and Lee's (1998) emotional
labor scale which is the scale under study.
In investigating how it was incumbent upon service agents to manage
their emotions as part of the job, Hochschild (1983) describes two main
techniques of managing one's emotions--surface acting and deep
acting. Surface acting relates to managing observable expressions,
whereas deep acting corresponds to managing feelings. In other words,
feelings are changed from the "outside in" in surface acting
(faking feelings), whereas feelings are changed from the "inside
out" in (active) deep acting (modifying inner feelings) (Kim,
2008). Hochschild (1983) also acknowledges another technique known as
passive deep acting by which employees' feelings are spontaneously
felt and displayed with no conscious effort. There is still an ongoing
debate on whether the third technique should be included in the
conceptualization of emotional labor since it lacks the process of
internal dissonance and conscious effort (Mann, 1999). Kim (2008)
contends that deep acting is synonymous with active deep acting
(involving individuals' internal dissonance and effort) rather than
passive deep acting. This hence suggests that emotional labor is best
viewed as a two-dimensional construct consisting of only surface acting
and deep acting.
In a similar vein, Grandey (2000) proposes that both processes of
surface and deep acting correspond to the description of emotional labor
as emotional regulation. To her, surface acting is emotional dissonance.
On the other hand, deep acting is emotional regulation. She goes further
to argue that these two dimensions alone can be used to operationalize
emotional labor based on three justifications. First, surface and deep
acting can result in both positive and negative outcomes. Thus, positive
outcomes such as customer service performance and increased personal
accomplishment as well as negative outcomes such as emotional exhaustion
can be adequately explained. Second, organizational training and stress
management programs can be accordingly designed in light of the possible
differential outcomes of these two processes of emotional labor.
Finally, by conceptualizing emotional labor as two-dimensional, we can
link this model to an established model of regulation (Gross, 1998) and
consequently facilitate expansion of this research area.
Yet, there are other researchers (e.g., Brotheridge & Lee,
1998, 2003; Morris & Feldman, 1996) who prefer to perceive emotional
labor as a multi-dimensional concept. For instance, Morris and
Feldman's (1996) scale is comprised of four dimensions:
attentiveness to display rules, frequency of emotional display, variety
of emotions to be expressed, and emotional dissonance. Display rules are
related to societal, occupational, and organizational norms (Rafaeli
& Sutton, 1989). The higher the attentiveness to display rules of
the organization, the more psychological effort and physical stamina is
required of employees. The frequency of emotional display is another
important indicator because the more often an organization requires
socially appropriate emotional displays, the greater demand for
emotional labor. Short interactions with customers require less
emotional effort (Sutton & Rafaeli, 1988; Rafaeli, 1989) as opposed
to longer interactions which have been found to result in a higher
possibility of employee burnout (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993). Emotions
expressed in the organization setting can be categorized as positive,
negative, or neutral (Wharton & Erickson, 1993).The wider range of
emotions to be expressed, the more emotional labor is required of the
employee. This corresponds to the third dimension of variety of
emotions. Emotional dissonance makes the fourth dimension of emotional
labor that represents the discrepancy between genuinely felt emotions
and organizationally prescribed emotions (Middleton, 1989). This
conflict in turn contributes to more difficult emotional labor given
that it requires greater control and management of behavior. For
instance, in the case of a sales person lacking of commitment to a
particular product that subsequently requires him to exert considerable
emotional effort in order to display positive emotions necessary to
effectively sell that product (Johnson, 2004).
Despite the rigorous measure of emotional labor proposed by Morris
and Feldman (1996), the content validity of their scale was perceived to
be inconsistent with Hochschild's (1983) acting paradigm (Kruml
& Geddes, 2000). In an effort to better represent Hochschild's
(1983) scale, Kruml and Geddes (2000) recommend two dimensions--emotive
dissonance and emotive effort. The first factor reflects surface acting
and passive deep acting; the second captured active deep acting.
Similarly, Brotheridge and Grandey (2002) and Brotheridge and Lee (2003)
restructured emotional labor into two categories but under different
labels: job-focused and employee-focused. Each category has, along with
surface and deep acting, other sub-constructs such as frequency,
intensity and variety, and duration. More recently, Diefendorff et al.
(2005) contend that spontaneous and genuine emotions, acknowledged by
Hochschild (1983) as passive deep acting, should be included in the
emotional construct and as such presented a three-dimensional construct:
surface acting, deep acting, and naturally felt emotions.
4. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The main aim of the current study is to assess the goodness of
measures (validity and reliability) of the emotional labor construct
proposed by Brotheridge and Lee (1998) within a non-western context.
Data were collected using a survey questionnaire administered to a total
of 137 hotel employees, representing 16 hotels in east Malaysia. We
employed a "drop-off-call-back" method (Hair et al. 2006) in
the distribution and collection of completed questionnaires. The
selected hotels were initially informed about the objective of the study
(via telephone calls and emailing) before their co-operation to be a
part of this study was obtained.
4.1 Sample Profile
The 137 respondents held jobs ranging from front office assistants
to workers in various food and beverages outlets in the hotels. They
were mainly concentrated on low organizational level (117 or 85.4%).
There were more women (78 or 56.9 %) than men (59 or 43.1%), suggesting
the actual representation of female workers in the service sector. It is
well documented that women are more likely to work in services industry
(Bird & Sapp, 2004; Jordan, 1997) and the majority of them are in
fact located in subordinate posts in most service sectors (Richter,
1995). With respect to ethnicity, Bumiputras (indigenous people) made up
the majority of the sample (120 or 87.6%). This is followed by Chinese
(6 or 4.4%), Indians (2 or 1.5%), and 9 or 6.5 per cent classified
themselves as Other.
At the time of the research, most of the respondents were single
(91 or 66.4%), whereas 39 (or 28.5%) were married, and 7 (or 5.1%) were
either separated or divorced. In terms of academic qualifications, the
majority of the respondents had high school education (or below) (91 or
66.4%). There were also some diploma holders (31 or 22.6%), degree
holders (11 or 8.1%), and the remaining obtained other qualifications (4
or 2.9%). Ages of the respondents ranged from 18 to 47 years, with an
overall mean age of 25.6 years. Average organizational tenure for this
sample was approximately 2.08 years, with the range from approximately
10 months to 29 years. The mean job tenure was 2.17 years. These
statistics indicate that the sample was generally young with relatively
minimum working experience.
The current study employs Brotheridge and Lee's (1998) 15-item
emotional scale, comprising subscales that represent six dimensions of
emotional labor. These dimensions are duration, frequency, intensity,
variety, surface acting, and deep acting.
The first dimension of the scale under study--duration of customer
interaction is measured with a single free response question.
Respondents are asked to state the actual duration of an average
interaction with a customer. The remaining dimensions are assessed on a
five-point Likert response scale (1 = Never to 5 = Always). A stem
question is provided for answering items in these dimensions; "On
an average day at work, how often do you do each of the following when
interacting with customers?" Higher scores would suggest higher
levels of the dimensions being assessed.
Consisting of 3 items, the subscale for the frequency dimensions
measures the frequency of the display of organizationally prescribed
emotions. The intensity subscale contains 2 items that address how often
the respondent expresses strong or intense emotions. The variety
subscale measures the variety of emotional expression on the job and
consists of 3 items. The 3 items in the surface acting dimension assess
the extent to which the respondent express emotions that are not felt.
The deep acting subscale has 3 items to gauge how much an employee has
to modify feelings to comply with display rules. Given the above, it
seems worthwhile to determine whether all the noted dimensions are
relevant in the Malaysian context by means of a series of reliability
and validity tests.
5. ANALYSES AND RESULTS
To test the goodness of measure for the emotional labor construct,
we conducted 6 types of evaluation to test for content validity,
construct validity, convergent validity, discriminant validity,
nomological validity, and reliability of the proposed emotional labor
5.1 Content Validity
According to Rubio, Berg-Weger, Tebb, Lee, and Rauch (2003),
content validity is the extent to which the items on the measure assess
the same content or how well the content material was sampled in the
measure. Content validity is typically based on subjective evaluation
(rather than on statistical testing) and is further supported by
exhaustive literature review (Gomez, Lorente, & Cabrera, 2004).
Given that, the content validity of Brotheridge and Lee's (1998)
measure is deemed to be acceptable because the instrument has been
tested and supported by the extant literature. However, it is still
crucial that we clarify the scale's underlying factor structure
using factor analytical techniques which is the focus of the next
5.2 Construct Validity
Factor analysis is extensively employed by researchers in the
development and evaluation of scales (Pallant, 2001). To elaborate, it
is a technique used to test the construct validity of a particular scale
by reducing a large number of individual scale items to form a smaller
number of coherent subscales. To examine the underlying factor structure
of Brotheridge and Lee's (1998) emotional labor scale more closely,
we employed an exploratory factor analysis approach using an orthogonal
varimax rotation. Table 1 provides the results.
As shown in the table, the analysis revealed a two-factor solution.
The KMO was within acceptable level and the Barlett's test of
sphericity was significant. The total variance explained was 63.36 per
cent with the first component contributing to 36.14 per cent, whereas
the second component contributing to another 27.22 per cent. Most items
in the subscales were dropped due to cross loadings that exceeded 0.30.
But interestingly, all surface acting items were retained and as
theorized they cleanly loaded on a single factor. However, two deep
acting items and two variety items formed another distinct factor. We
decided to retain the 2 variety items under the deep acting construct
since the way these items were worded might have suggested a more
genuine display of emotions as when compared to surface acting.
5.3 Convergent Validity
The third evaluation of the emotional labor construct was related
to the convergent validity of each subscale. When all items measuring a
construct actually load on a single construct, it can be surmised that
the construct shows convergent validity (Campbell & Fiske, 1959). A
convergent validation test differs from a construct validation test such
that the former emphasizes the validity within scales, whereas the
latter is concerned with validity between scales. Hair, Anderson,
Tatham, and Black (2006) opine that convergent validation analysis is
useful in order to form more in-depth judgment of the dimensionality of
the construct under study. This study clearly provided support for the
convergent validity of the two-factor scale; the two factors displayed
unidimensionality with Deep Acting's KMO value at .72, explaining
63.53 percent of the variation. For surface acting, the KMO value stands
at .64, contributing 62.67 per cent of the variation.
5.4 Discriminant Validity
Next, discriminant validity of the proposed construct was executed.
We conducted a correlation analysis on the 2-dimension construct of
emotional labor. Discriminant validity is established when 2 constructs
are relatively distinctive such that their correlation values are
neither an absolute value of 0 or 1 (Campbell & Fiske, 1959). Given
that, the results as shown in Table 2 confirmed the discriminant
validity of the construct since the two factors of surface and deep
acting are not perfectly correlated.
Further, we obtained values for average amount of variance
extracted and squared correlation following the rule given by Smith,
Milberg, and Burke (1996). We found that the average amount of variance
extracted of surface and deep acting factors was greater than the
squared correlations between these factors, leading us to firmly
establish the discriminant validity of the proposed construct.
5.5 Nomological Validity
Another form of construct validity is nomological validity which
refers to the degree to which a construct behaves as it should within a
network of related constructs known as a nomological set (Cronbach &
Meehl, 1955). To ascertain the construct validity of a measure, Cronbach
and Meehl (1955) propose that a nomological network has to be
established. What this means is that we have to develop a nomological
link between the variable that we want to validate with another variable
which has been proven theoretically to be related to the target
variable. To validate the construct of emotional labor, we hence used
emotional exhaustion in developing the nomological link since this
dimension has been found to be an important outcome of emotional labor
(Johnson, 2004). As shown in Table 3, deep acting as well as surface
acting was significantly related to emotional exhaustion, thus
confirming the nomological validity of the construct.
Reliability is one of the major criteria for evaluating the
internal consistency of a scale. Internal consistency refers to the
homogeneity of the measure. In other words, if a scale possesses a high
reliability the scale is considered homogenous. Cronbach's alpha
was adopted for purposes of this study as it is the most utility for
multipart-scale items (Cooper & Emory, 1995; Sekaran, 2000). The
results of the reliability analysis revealed Cronbach's alpha
values of .81 and .70 for surface acting and deep acting, respectively.
By subscribing to the threshold value of .60 as the acceptable standard
of reliability (Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994; Sekaran, 2000), it can
be surmised that the measure used in this study demonstrated acceptable
to good internal reliability.
The results revealed that only the surface and deep acting
dimensions of emotional labor were capable of explaining sufficient
variation in the construct. The findings appear to support the
contention that job-related variables such as frequency, intensity,
variety are not emotional labor itself but its antecedents (Grandey,
2000; Kim, 2008). Perhaps it is true that the two techniques of
emotional labor--surface and deep acting are valid components of
emotional labor as argued by Grandey (2000). Although the other
subscales were found to be irrelevant in this study, they may be
appropriate sub-dimensions of emotional labor in different contexts as
well as with different samples. Hence, there is still much research work
to be done to provide more useful insights into the dimensionality of
emotional labor under different circumstances.
That being said, some potential limitations of this study should be
mentioned for considerations in future research. First, the data were
drawn from the hospitality industry in Malaysia and as such generalizing
the findings to other sectors or cultural settings might be constrained.
It would hence be worthwhile to replicate this study using samples in
diverse occupations, cultures, and sectors. Morris and Feldman (1996)
assert that emotional requirements that are appropriate in one service
may be inappropriate or even dysfunctional in another environment. In
the case of bill collectors, for instance, the emotional labor
requirements would be the direct opposite of a warm emotional front in
the hospitality setting (Johnson, 2004). Second, the data were obtained
from the same source which could have resulted in common methods
variance. Thus, the findings should be viewed with caution. Also, the
factor analysis in this study yielded more than half of the items been
dropped due to high cross loadings. As such, future research should use
other statistical methods such as structural equations modeling (SEM) to
examine the underlying factor structure of the emotional labor construct
Although a considerable amount of effort has been devoted to
understanding what emotional labor is, there are still a number of
unresolved issues surrounding its measurement (Fisher & Ashkanasy,
2000). This study was based on a survey questionnaire to determine the
dimensionality of emotional labor in the Malaysian hospitality setting.
Through tests of validity and reliability, only the subscales of surface
and deep acting of Brotheridge and Lee's (1998) instrument were
found to adequately explain the variance in the construct. Hence, the
argument that emotional labor is best viewed as the performance of
surface acting and deep acting (Grandey, 2000; Kim, 2008) seems to be
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Ang Magdalene Chooi Hwa, Universiti Malaysia Sabah-Labuan
International Campus, Malaysia
Ramayah Thurasamy, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia
Syed Azizi Wafa, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Malaysia
Dr. Magdalene Ang, PhD., is a Senior lecturer at the Labuan School
of International Business and Finance, Universiti Malaysia Sabah.
Professor T. Ramayah; MBA, is a Associate Professor at the School
of Management, Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Dr. Syed Azizi Wafa, PhD., Professor of International Business at
the School of Business and Economics, Universiti Malaysia Sabah.
TABLE 1: EMOTIONAL LABOR: ROTATED FACTORS AND ITEM LOADINGS
Items I II
Factor I: Deep acting and variety
DA9: I make an effort to actually feel the .87 .07
emotions that I need to display to others.
DA10: I try to actually experience the emotions .78 .10
that I need to display to others.
V6: I display many different kinds of emotions. .77 .19
V8: I display many different emotions when .72 .14
interacting with others.
Factor II: Surface Acting
SA14: I hide my true feelings about a situation. .09 .84
SA13: I pretend to have emotions that .09 .81
I do not really have.
SA12: I resist expressing my true feelings. .20 .68
Eigenvalue 2.96 1.48
Variance (%) (Total: 63.36%) 36.14 27.22
Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin MSA .71
Bartlett's test of sphericity 294.72 **
Note. N = 137; ** p < .01; Underlined loadings
indicate the inclusion of those items in the factor;
DA = Deep Acting; V = Variety; SA = Surface Acting.
TABLE 2: RESULTS OF DISCRIMINANT VALIDITY
Surface Acting .31 **
Note. ** p < .01; Average = average of variance
extracted; SC = squared correlation.
TABLE 3: RESULTS OF NOMOLOGICAL VALIDITY
Deep acting Surface acting
Emotional exhaustion .30 * .21 **
Note. * p < .05; ** p < .01.