Why do emotional labor strategies differentially predict exhaustion? Comparing psychological effort, authenticity, and relational mechanisms

Anna V Huppertz*, Ute R, Hülsheger, Joana De Calheiros Velozo, Bert H. Schreurs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Web of Science)
399 Downloads (Pure)


Surface acting has repeatedly been found to harm employee well-being, but weak or inconsistent findings have been reported for deep acting. A theoretical explanation put forth by researchers to explain this is that opponent processes may be involved in deep acting. Accordingly, there are countering processes in place for deep acting, effectively yielding a weak or null relationship with indicators of strain or well-being. Although often cited, this claim has never been tested empirically. The current study addresses this question by exploring the relationship between deep acting and emotional exhaustion via 3 underlying mechanisms: (a) psychological effort, (b) feelings of authenticity, and (c) rewarding interactions. Specifically, we expected that although being effortful, deep acting also results in feelings of authenticity and rewarding interactions with customers. However, contrary to expectations, results from an experience-sampling study (involving 3 daily surveys over the course of 7 days) revealed that deep acting did not relate to any of these mechanisms, nor was it directly or indirectly related to emotional exhaustion. These findings challenge previous suggestions that there are countering processes in place for deep acting. In addition, analyses revealed significant indirect relationships of surface acting with emotional exhaustion that were mediated by psychological effort and felt authenticity. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed in the conclusion. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-226
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Occupational Health Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date19 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • emotional labor
  • mechanisms
  • emotional exhaustion
  • surface acting
  • deep acting
  • WORK
  • DEEP

Cite this