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Words from the heart speak to the heart: A study of deep acting, faking, and hiding among child care workers

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to understand, from the child care worker's perspective, how work experience, display rules, and affectivity are related to emotional labor. It also examines the utility of separating surface acting into its two components: the hiding and faking of emotions. Design/methodology/approach ‐ This study is based on a cross-sectional self-report survey of 198 child care workers in Western Canada. Findings ‐ Deep acting occurred more frequently among younger workers, whereas experienced workers hid their feelings more frequently than did their less-experienced counterparts. The requirement to express positive emotions was associated with deep acting and faking emotions, whereas the requirement to suppress negative emotions was associated with hiding feelings. Research limitations/implications ‐ Results support the treatment of surface acting's components as distinct given their differential association with the other variables. Future research should validate the emotional labor measure in service occupations that involve different frequency and intensity levels of contact. Practical implications ‐ The finding that young and inexperienced workers appear to engage in different emotion regulation strategies than mature and experienced workers may be due to their job training. A potential solution is to include service learning projects in child care training that build their confidence in communicating with parents. Originality/value ‐ Use of the revised Emotional Labour Scale in future studies may facilitate a deeper understanding of workplace emotional expression.
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Keywords: Canada; Child care workers; Display rules; Emotional Labour Scale; Emotional labour; Positive/negative emotions; Vocational training

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-08-16

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