Effort in Emotion Work and Well-Being: The Role of Goal Attainment

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It is well established that regulating one’s emotion display in social settings entails psychological costs such as lower well-being. However, regulating emotion display may also help achieving goals, and goal attainment is known to enhance well-being. We therefore investigated the hypothesis that success in attaining goals during social interactions would reduce the negative impact of regulatory effort on well-being. In an experience sampling study, 115 Swiss employees reported their social encounters for 7 consecutive days. For each interaction, participants were asked to report their effort in regulating their emotions, their level of goal attainment, and their momentary well-being after the interaction. Data being nested (Level 1: interactions; Level 2: person), multilevel analyses were conducted. Continuous level 1 predictors were group mean centered, implying that their effects on well-being were strictly intraindividual. Gender, age, extraversion, and neuroticism were controlled on the person level, the context of the interaction (private vs. work) as well as positive and negative emotions felt during the social encounter were controlled on the situation level. Analysis of 1,674 social interactions containing a goal confirmed that regulatory effort predicted lower well-being after social interactions (Hypothesis 1), that degree of goal attainment predicted better well-being after these interactions (Hypothesis 2), and that degree of goal attainment buffered the negative effect of effort (Hypothesis 3). Research and theory should pay more attention to the fact that emotions often are regulated in the service of goals, and that attaining these goals may, at least partially, compensate for the effort invested.

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