NUS studies: Faking one’s emotions makes one an abusive supervisor


The mentally draining task of faking one’s emotions to adhere to certain workplace policies, such as rules on providing ‘service with a smile’, can make supervisors more abusive, according to new research by Dr. Sam Yam, Assistant Professor of Management and Organization, which will be published in a forthcoming 2016 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Through a survey of 184 employees and their leaders working in customer service and sales roles, the research found that leaders who reported doing more ‘surface acting’, such as faking a good mood or suppressing anger in front of customers, tended to be seen as abusive supervisors by their staff, because surface acting deprives these bosses of the mental resources to rein in abusive behavior.

However, supervisors who had a higher degree of self-control as a personality trait were less likely to become abusive from surface acting, according to the study.

“Our findings are significant because they open the door to more intervention options. For instance, service organizations might want to reconsider how they encourage their staff to provide good service. While forcing employees to smile and suppress other emotions might help a company’s image, such practices also risk compromising supervisor-staff relationships in the long run,” said Dr Yam.

He added: “Our research suggests that abusive supervision can be mitigated by replenishing the supervisors’ mental resources and hence, their resources for self-control. For instance, organizations can help employees regain their self-control resources by encouraging them to take short breaks at work. Likewise, self-affirmation training can enable individuals to replenish depleted resources. Together, research points to a wide array of interventions through which organisations can reduce abusive supervision.”

The full paper can be downloaded at: http://static1.squarespace.com/static/52be2693e4b0697bbec87ab3/…