Emotional dissonance in call centre work

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JMP 25,6

Emotional dissonance in call centre work
¨ Jurgen Wegge
Technical University of Dresden, Dresden, Germany

Received May 2009 Revised November 2009 Accepted November 2009

Rolf Van Dick
Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany, and

Christiane vonBernstorff
University of Dortmund, Dortmund, Germany
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate new hypotheses regarding potential correlates and underpinnings of emotional dissonance experienced in call centre work. It is argued that prior attempts to measure emotional dissonance are incomplete because such measures often do not specify which emotions are actually not shown (e.g.faked, suppressed, veiled) during work. Design/methodology/approach – A field study with 161 call centre agents was conducted. Positive affectivity (PA), negative affectivity (NA) of agents and customer verbal aggression were conceptualized as correlates of emotional dissonance, whereas job satisfaction, health disorders and burnout were assessed as indicators of agents’ work motivation andwell-being. To investigate the emotional underpinnings of emotional dissonance the Frankfurt Emotion Work Scales (FEWS) was used and, in addition, agents were asked to report frequency, intensity and “not showing” of 15 separate emotions. Findings – The results show that emotional dissonance was associated with lower work motivation and well-being. Moreover, NA and customer aggression correlatedpositively whereas PA correlated negatively with emotional dissonance. Emotional dissonance measured with the FEWS was significantly related to the frequency of longing, the intensity of anger and the not showing of boredom, affection and anger. Originality/value – The findings support the construct validity of the FEWS. However, based on correlations with agents’ self-rated ability to perform on a highlevel and interactions between NA and customer aggression that emerged only when emotion-specific dissonance measures were analyzed, this paper suggests combining emotion-specific dissonance measures with the FEWS in future research. Keywords Emotional dissonance, Call centres, Motivation (psychology), Personal health Paper type Research paper

Journal of Managerial Psychology Vol. 25 No. 6, 2010 pp.596-619 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0268-3946 DOI 10.1108/02683941011056950

In many service jobs it is expected that service providers (e.g. nurses, clerks, call centre agents) express positive emotions such as joy or interest in interactions with customers even in situations in which they actually feel no specific emotion or in which they feel negative emotions such as boredom(Diefendorff and Richard, 2003). The term “emotional dissonance” describes this discrepancy between expressed and felt emotions and prior studies have shown that emotional dissonance is an important phenomenon in service work that is, for example, linked to burnout (Zapf, 2002).
The authors are grateful to Shay Tzafrir and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of thispaper.

However, only few studies have examined potential antecedents of emotional dissonance at work (Bono and Vey, 2005) and, therefore, the first aim of this research is to gather more evidence in this respect. More specifically, our study investigates the personality of employees (positive and negative affectivity) and the aggressiveness of customers as potential antecedents of emotionaldissonance. Our second goal is to shed further light on the specific emotional underpinnings of emotional dissonance. It will be argued that prior attempts to measure emotional dissonance are incomplete because these measures often do not specify which emotions are actually not shown (e.g. faked, suppressed, veiled). To investigate if a more complete measure of emotional dissonance is beneficial, we...
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