An examination of emotional display rules using situational strength
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Although emotions are an integral part of our work experience, we cannot always show our genuine feelings while on the job. Many workplaces have either implicit or explicit requirements for emotional expression (known as display rules), particularly in service contexts. However, little research has examined how the amount of pressure put on a worker to express or suppress certain feelings affects the individual. I argue that this aspect of display rules is an important but neglected component of the emotional labor experience. As situational strength is a broader literature of behavioral control generally, I used situational strength as a lens to examine display rules. I suggested that situational strength would either moderate relationships between display rules and employee emotional display and well-being, or be a better predictor of employee emotional display and well-being. I also investigated how supervisors affects situational strength of display rules with task-focused and person-focused leadership styles. Using paired surveys from full-time workers and their coworkers, my main hypotheses were largely unsupported. However, I found that positive emotion situational strength predicted positive emotion deep acting beyond positive display rules. Further, task-focused leadership and person-focused leadership related to emotion regulation and well-being. Several of these effects were mediated through situational strength of display rules. Results suggest leaders may be able to encourage deep acting and promote well-being by creating situations high in clarity and consistency but low in constraints.