When the Boss Came to the Meeting . . . : Hierarchical Distance and Emotional Labor in Workplace Meetings

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Meetings are a frequent occurrence in today’s work environment and yet they remain understudied empirically. This study focused on better understanding the relationship between hierarchical distance in meetings and emotional labor. More specifically, we investigated the direct effect of surface acting and deep acting on hierarchical distance, respectively, using social-comparison theory and norms of professionalism as our theoretical framework. In addition, we explored whether an individual-difference variable, susceptibility to emotional contagion, moderates these relationships. Utilizing a panel of full-time working adults from various industries who attend meetings regularly, we found that hierarchical distance is positively related to surface acting, but no conditional effect was found. However, emotional contagion was shown to moderate the relationship between hierarchical distance and deep acting such that the relationship was positive for high emotional contagion but negative for low emotional contagion. Conclusions concerning the implications for research and practice of consulting psychology are drawn.

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