Emotion display rules at work in the global service economy: The special case of the customer

Alicia Grandey, Anat Rafaeli, Shy Ravid, Jochen Wirtz, Dirk D. Steiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how emotion display rules are influenced by relational, occupational, and cultural expectations. Design/methodology/approach – The authors compare these influences by assessing anger and happiness display rules toward customers, coworkers, and supervisors across four cultures. Findings – Overall, the findings suggest that anger can be expressed with coworkers, can be slightly leaked to supervisors, but must be almost completely suppressed with customers. In contrast, happiness expression is most acceptable with coworkers. Moreover, though culture dimensions (i.e. power distance and collectivism) do predict display rules with organizational members, display rules with customers are fairly consistent across culture, with two exceptions. French respondents are more accepting of anger expression with customers, while American respondents report the highest expectations for expressing happiness to customers. Practical implications – The results support that several countries share the “service with a smile” expectations for customers, but these beliefs are more strongly held in the USA than in other cultures. Thus, importing practices from the USA to other culturally distinct countries may be met with resistance. Management must be aware of cultural differences in emotions and emotion norms, as outlined here, to improve the experience of employees of globalized service organizations. Originality/value – The authors integrate social, occupational, and cultural theoretical perspectives of emotional display rules, and build on the small but growing research identifying variation in display rules by work target, specifically speaking to the globalized “service culture.”.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-412
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Service Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 22 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Strategy and Management


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