The hospitality service industry includes hotels, restaurants, health services, tourism, and transportation, which exerts a crucial impact on people’s quality of life and happiness. The biggest opportunity for hospitality companies to gain a competitive advantage is whether they could offer customers high-quality hospitality services [1
]. Capiel et al. reported that up to 67% of customers stopped patronizing the company because of the indifferent attitude of service employees [2
]. Nevertheless, as service employees serve many customers every day, it is challenging to make them smile all the time. When the inner feelings of service employees do not meet the requirements of their company (e.g., anger and frustration), they have to make considerable efforts to adjust their negative emotions to express the enthusiasm and concern; This process of emotional regulation is termed as “emotional labor” [3
]. Emotional labor includes two dimensions: surface acting and deep acting [5
]. Surface acting implies employees are pretending to be happy but still feeling negative, while deep acting implies employees spontaneously changing their negative inner feelings to adapt to the external environment. To date, numerous studies have demonstrated that surface acting could cause emotional exhaustion and work dissatisfaction [8
]. By contrast, deep acting could markedly improve employees’ job accomplishment and provide good service experience for customers [10
]. Thus, how to suppress surface acting and promote the deep acting of employees has become one of the major problems experienced by service managers.
In order to reduce the risk of physical and mental health of service employees, recent studies have paid special attention to how to inhibit surface acting and promote deep acting. The existing studies mainly examined the antecedents of emotional labor from the organizational environment and individual trait. Individual trait factors include big five personality [13
], negative personality [14
], emotional intelligence [15
], self-monitoring [17
], and self-determined motivation [18
]; Organizational environment includes authentic leadership [20
], social and organizational support [21
], service climate [23
], service leadership [24
], supervisor support [25
], organizational justice [26
], and customer misbehavior [27
Although scholars in the field of management and service have made some progress in discussing the topic, the following issues persist: first, the existing literature primarily focuses on single-level factors. Kozlowski and Klein argued that organizations are multilevel systems and organizational macro-environmental factors may affect the micro-level employee attitudes and behaviors [28
]. According to Kozlowski and Klein’s view, the multilevel theoretical perspective is combining macro-environmental and micro individual trait factors, and discussing how they have an impact on employees’ attitudes and behaviors commonly. Based on the multilevel theoretical perspective [29
], if only one level of antecedent factors of emotional labor is focused at, another level of meaningful explanation of emotional labor could be missed; It is also impossible to explain how organizational context and individual trait conjointly affect emotional labor. Besides, at the organizational level of a company, Ashkanasy et al. believed that the emotional expression of employees could be aggregated to the organizational level and become an organizational emotional climate to enhance all the employees’ wellbeing through recruitment, selection, training, and daily service encounter management [30
]. However, their claims have not been verified, which is also an interesting question that needs further discussion. Lastly, service orientation and social capital are recognized as multifoci constructs. Multifoci service orientation refers to the different effects of service orientation types according to their source. Existing literature conceptualize service orientation from two sources, i.e., a service employee and a service organization [32
]. The former is named by individual orientation refers to service employees’ intention to providing quality service [32
]; the latter is named by organizational service orientation refers to service organization’s intention to providing quality service [33
]. Similar to service orientation, Social capital is also a multifoci conception that has two sources: a service employee and a service organization [34
], which is named by individual social capital and organizational social capital respectively. Individual social capital refers to resources (e.g., material resources, information, and trust) embedded in the employee’s social network (including employee’s relationship with colleagues, superiors, and customers) [34
]; Organizational social capital refers to resources embedded in the organization’s social network, including structural (the connection between members), relational (trust between members) and cognitive (common goals between members) resources [35
]. This is important because employees typically experience related yet distinct service orientation and social capital at the organizational and individual sources. More specifically, a multi-foci approach can identify which particular service orientation and social capital types and sources are most influential in affecting employee emotional labor.
Hence, this study aims to integrate multifoci service orientation and multifoci social capital and discuss how they affect emotional labor (both organizational and individual level). The remainder of this paper is arranged as follows: firstly, we propose the hypotheses of the effect of organizational service orientation, individual service orientation, organizational social capital, individual social capital on emotional labor; secondly, the research design is presented (including data collection and conception measurement); thirdly, data analysis and discussion are provided; finally, conclusions, management implication, and limitations and future research directions are provided.
First, most service industries maintain a competitive advantage by creating customer delight experience. Service employees’ emotional labor plays a crucial role in enhancing the positive emotions of customers. However, surface acting and deep acting exert different effects on employees’ physical and mental health. Lee and Madera systematically summarized the research progress of emotional labor literature in the field of the hospitality industry; they argued that limited studies had discussed multilevel factors of emotional labor [8
]. On the other hand, several studies have discussed the impact of individual service orientation or customer orientation on employees’ emotional labor [26
], which have neglected that service orientation theory exists in multiple levels of an organization. This study combines the service orientation theory from multiple perspectives to validate that both organizational service-oriented and individual service-oriented promote employees’ deep acting. The conclusion enriches the multilevel antecedents of emotional labor in the hospitality industry.
Second, emotional labor studies have primarily focused on the resource conservation theory and emotional event theory to explain the influencing factors of emotional labor [8
]. For example, Hu et al. used the resource conservation theory to demonstrate the correlation between customer misconduct and emotional labor [27
]. In addition, Lam and Chen and Hur et al. used the emotional event theory to illustrate the impact of organizational support on employees’ emotional state and emotional adjustment strategy [22
]. Besides the resource conservation theory, we used the theory of trait hierarchy model to establish that individual social capital transforms external resources (organizational service orientation) and individual resources (individual service orientation) into deep acting, providing a new theoretical perspective for discussing the antecedents of emotional labor.
Finally, employees’ emotional expression is a crucial skill to achieve customer performance. At present, research in the service field primarily discusses individual-level research on emotional labor. Ashkanasy et al. believed that through recruitment, selection, training, and daily service encounter management, the emotional expression of employees could be aggregated at the organizational level and become an essential resource for a service organization to enhance customer performance [30
]. In this study, we verified that individual-level emotional labor could be aggregated at the organizational level based on 31 hospitality firms’ data, and organizational service orientation promoted aggregated deep acting through organizational social capital. The research conclusion encourages more scholars to discuss emotional labor at the organizational level.
Although this study has received interesting theoretical implications, some hypotheses were not confirmed, which could be attributed to many reasons. First, individual social capital exerts no negative impact on surface acting, and their correlation is not supported at the organizational level (H3 and H10 are not supported), which could be because of the influence of Chinese cultural context; Chinese cultural tradition requires that individuals cover up their negative feelings without disturbing the feelings of others. Thus, some studies using Chinese employees in the service industry as survey samples approve that employees’ surface acting does not hurt customer performance or make customers feel insincere [70
]. Instead, they believe that service employees do not bring negative feelings to work and obtain an understanding of customers and colleagues. From this standpoint, service employees in Chinese culture engaged in surface acting could bring customers’ understanding and colleagues’ support, and will not afford too many psychological resources, thereby not needing the supplement of organizational and individual social capital resources. Furthermore, individual social capital exerts no mediating effect between service orientation (organization and individual) and surface acting (H5 and H7 are not supported).
In sum, surface acting harms employee well-being and deep acting has a positive effect. The current study adds to the literature on antecedents of emotional labor (both individual level and organizational level) from multifoci service orientation and multifoci social capital is one of the underlying mechanisms through which this relationship occurs. Our findings suggest that deep acting at the individual level can be aggregated into an emotional climate at the organizational level, which is an important environmental factor to promote employee well-being and customer performance; employees with high service orientation have a warm and cheerful personality and like to help others. These traits are very suitable for interpersonal interaction and help employees to accumulate more social resources. And then, social resources come from customers and colleagues can promote deep acting and employees’ wellbeing, such as job accomplishment. Similarly, a service organization with high service orientation will establish a platform for employee experience exchange and provide support for all employees to improve emotional management skills. These strategies could help service employees to alleviate negative emotions in the work. Furthermore, a service-oriented organization has a high-quality social network (i.e., organizational social capital) among all the employees, which means employees work in a harmonious, trusting, and friendly organizational environment that will enhance all the employees’ wellbeing.
7.1. Management Implications
Service work is a long-time and high-intensity job and often suffers from unfair treatment by customers. Our findings can help service organization leaders to improve frontline service employees’ wellbeing in the following three aspects. First, for human resource managers, they should design a service-oriented personality test tool, and recruit personnel who have cheerful, optimistic, and like to help others. Such employees are suitable for communicating with customers and able to establish a harmonious working relationship with colleagues and leaders. And then, they could obtain emotional resources from them to regulate negative emotions and improve their workplace wellbeing. Secondly, for the senior leaders, they should cultivate a service-oriented climate through human resources management, service encounter management, service technical support, and service leadership. Service-oriented climate provides a large number of opportunities for service experience exchange among employees. service employees not only accumulate a lot of social resources to alleviate customer stress, but also have opportunities to improve emotional management skills. Thirdly, for junior managers, they should adopt service leadership to provide resourceful, emotional, and technical support for employees. Once employees encounter pressure from their families, colleagues, or customers, they need the help and support of immediate superior to adjust stressful situations with colleagues or customers. They are important forces for improving the mental state of employees.
7.2. Research Limitations and Future Research Directions
This study has obtained interesting conclusions but also has some limitations that should be improved in future research. First, we used many ways to decrease the common method deviation, such as multistage, multisource collection investigation data, and let the respondents fill in the questionnaire voluntarily and anonymously, but there remains some room for improvement. For example, we should let the employees’ supervisor assess their emotional labor. Second, we selected the enterprises in the hotel industry, catering industry, and the tourism industry as the research object, which might have limited our findings’ extension to other industries. In addition, the selected samples were mainly concentrated in northern China, which also limited our findings’ extension to the southern part of China. Finally, owing to the different cultural contexts between China and the West, there could be significant differences in emotional expressive norms followed by frontline employees. Hence, future research should further investigate the similarities and differences of emotional expressive norms between China and the West, as well as discuss its effect on the study theoretical model.