People who work in the service industry have to interact with customers on a regular basis. Some may spend hours with one customer, while others may have exchanges with dozens of individuals in any one given work day. Regardless of the number of contacts a person has, each interaction with another person requires an expenditure of emotional resources. High levels of emotional interactions can put a significant strain on an employee’s psychological state, especially if these interactions are volatile or hostile in nature. However, it is not always easy to spot these strains because many times people put on a happy face to cover their emotions. In fact, this method of surface acting, which is quite common in the service industry, allows people to push through difficult situations without addressing their underlying emotional condition, which ultimately can lead to more stress.
In recent years, researchers have begun to explore ways to diffuse this emotional powder keg that can lead to job burnout, emotional exhaustion, or decreased psychological well-being. One approach that has been investigated is mindfulness, which has been shown to be quite effective at decreasing negative affect in people with depression, eating and food problems, and those with chronic physical pain. So it would be natural to assume that applying mindfulness in the workplace could also help employees who are vulnerable to emotional exhaustion. Ute R. Hülsheger of the Department of Work and Social Psychology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands recently led a study that looked at how mindfulness affected job satisfaction, burnout, and emotional exhaustion in a sample of service workers. Hülsheger also examined if surface acting increased or decreased that effect.
The participants reported their moods over a period of five days and Hülsheger found that mindfulness decreased job burnout and emotional exhaustion. Hülsheger also discovered that when compared to a control group, the participants in the mindfulness condition had higher levels of job satisfaction. Hülsheger also looked at the relationship between surface acting or putting on a happy face and mindfulness and found that mindfulness traits increased surface acting, which increased job satisfaction. However, surface acting did not increase levels of mindfulness, and by itself surface acting did not lead to lower levels of job burnout or emotional exhaustion. Hülsheger believes future work should examine this relationship more closely. But for now, “The present findings suggest that mindfulness is a fruitful way to deal with emotional job demands.”
Hülsheger, U. R., Alberts, H. J. E. M., Feinholdt, A., and Lang, J. W. B. (2012). Benefits of mindfulness at work: The role of mindfulness in emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031313
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
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.