Emotional Energy Reduces Stress in Service Related Jobs

Nearly 30% of Europeans and 40% of Americans report working in jobs that are very stressful. “Stress permeates organizations and, when uncontrolled, may result in negative health and performance consequences,” said Michael R. Smith of the Department of Psychology at Southern Illinois University, and lead author of a new study examining which factors mediate stress in service related jobs. “Increased levels of stress have been linked to a compromised immune system, reduced cardiovascular functioning, high blood pressure, disturbed hormone excretion, and increased risk of accidents. Similarly, stress also has a significant, negative relationship with job satisfaction and organizational commitment, while sharing a significant, positive relationship with counterproductive work behaviors, withdrawal behaviors, turnover intentions, and depression.”

Two factors that were of particular interest to Smith were emotional energy (EE) and customer service orientation (CSO). Smith looked at how these factors impacted job stress for both front of house (FOH: servers, hosts, wait staff) and back of house (BOH: kitchen personnel) restaurant employees. He found that FOH employees were better protected from stress than BOH due to EE, but not CSO. The FOH employees, who usually worked fewer hours and had resources and support outside of the workplace, did not rely on the customer interaction to mitigate stress, but rather their stress was reduced as a result of the autonomy, mastery and effective emotional regulation. “Although we did not find support for a moderating effect of CSO on the stress–performance relationship for FOH workers, we did find that CSO potentially mediated the stress–performance relationship,” said Smith. “This study found that when stress in the workplace is minimized, this is likely to facilitate greater levels of CSO, and thereby greater performance among FOH workers.” Smith added, “Helping employees develop meaningful interpersonal relationships with leaders, coworkers, and customers can be an alternative method to reduce the negative effects of work-related stress on performance. Cultivating a shared sense of interpersonal connectedness among workers may be a lower-cost method to improve employee trust, cooperation, positive affect, and performance.”

Smith, M. R., Rasmussen, J. L., Mills, M. J., Wefald, A. J., & Downey, R. G. (2011, November 28). Stress and Performance: Do Service Orientation and Emotional Energy Moderate the Relationship?. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026064

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Stanley A

    Stanley A

    December 5th, 2011 at 11:29 PM

    I would have guess the front of house staff would suffer from greater stress due to their longer work hours and constant need for interaction with customers…But well, seems like customer interaction actually helps mitigate stress…Client interaction certainly doesn’t help alleviate stress at my workplace, a consultancy firm…So I guess the nature of your job matters too.

  • Nick


    December 6th, 2011 at 5:16 AM

    There are naturally more jobs that create more stress in one’s life. But when you have energy to delve through it, and that energy leads to greater satisfaction, then of course the level of customer service that you give will be better, and everyone will be ahppier all the way around. Sounds like the perfect storm for a good work environment to me.

  • Grace Smith

    Grace Smith

    December 6th, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    I am a prime example of this!

    I once worked a job where I was so stressed out all the time and my health really did suffer as a result.

    I was sick all of the time, but tried to keep going and going until finally it was not at all worth it anymore.
    There is no paycheck worth all of that!

  • alan


    December 8th, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    ‘stress’ seems to be the buzzword everywhere.was this less existent a few decades ago or were our parents just better at handling it? when did this craze with stress begin?

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