From cheery to "cheers"? Regulating emotions at work and alcohol consumption after work

Gordon M. Sayre, Alicia A. Grandey, Nai Wen Chi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Emotional labor, or regulating emotions as part of one's work role, is needed for performance yet may come with far-reaching costs to employee health and performance. Based on ego depletion theorizing, we propose that on days employees perform more surface acting (i.e., faking positive and hiding negative emotional expressions), they will consume more alcohol later-due to reduced self-control (i.e., depletion). In 2 studies, public-facing employees completed multiple assessments per day for 2 weeks. Study 1 showed that surface acting had no direct or indirect effect on alcohol use via depletion, nor via negative mood as an alternative measure of depletion. Study 2 demonstrated that surface acting directly increased subsequent drinking only for those with high emotional demands, but not through depletion. Across both studies, daily deep acting (i.e., modifying emotions to feel positive) consistently predicted less alcohol consumption, but this did not occur through depletion. Study 2 provided evidence for an alternative, motivational shift explanation-a reduced motive to detach from work after regulating by deep acting-rather than self-control capacity. These findings contribute to debate on ego depletion theory by providing insightful field evidence, while demonstrating when emotional labor is likely to help or harm employees' health. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-618
Number of pages22
JournalThe Journal of applied psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology


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