Emotional Display Rules as Work Unit Norms: A Multilevel Analysis of Emotional Labor Among Nurses

James M. Diefendorff, Rebecca J. Erickson, Alicia A. Grandey, Jason J. Dahling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

241 Scopus citations


Emotional labor theory has conceptualized emotional display rules as shared norms governing the expression of emotions at work. Using a sample of registered nurses working in different units of a hospital system, we provided the first empirical evidence that display rules can be represented as shared, unit-level beliefs. Additionally, controlling for the influence of dispositional affectivity, individual-level display rule perceptions, and emotion regulation, we found that unit-level display rules are associated with individual-level job satisfaction. We also showed that unit-level display rules relate to burnout indirectly through individual-level display rule perceptions and emotion regulation strategies. Finally, unit-level display rules also interacted with individual-level dispositional affectivity to predict employee use of emotion regulation strategies. We discuss how future research on emotional labor and display rules, particularly in the health care setting, can build on these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-186
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of occupational health psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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