The Dark Side of Emotional Labour: Machiavellianism and Emotion Management Strategies within a Cultural Context
The current literature presents inconsistencies with regard to the ‘Bright’ and ‘Dark Sides’ of emotional labour and related emotion management strategies: it indicates that the negative effect of emotional labour cannot be explained on the basis of emotion management strategies alone and additional factors should be considered. The aim of this research was to investigate the ‘Dark Side’ of emotional labour in greater depth by: a) analysing constructs (emotion management strategies, cultural orientation and personality influences) which might be responsible for the discrepancies in emotional labour which result in positive and negative effects; b) verifying Machiavellian responses and investigating the social desirability effect in self-report measures; and c) examining sources of Machiavellian amoral values and behaviour. Emotional labour was examined from the perspective of intra-organisational relationships. The focus was upon Machiavellianism as the main construct of this research, it being in the forefront of each of the three studies conducted. Study one investigated the relationship between the elements of an ego-centric triad (Individualistic Cultural Orientation, Surface Acting and Machiavellianism) and the impact of that triad upon employees’ states at work (well-being, career success, job satisfaction and turnover intentions). This study asked the following research questions: ‘RQ1 - Is there a positive relationship between the elements (Individualistic Culture, Surface Acting and Machiavellianism) of an ego-centric triad?’ and ‘RQ2 - How does the triad impact upon employees’ well-being, career success, job satisfaction and turnover intentions?’ It was hypothesised that: (H1) there would be a positive relationship between the elements of the ego-centric triad; (H2) the ego-centric triad elements will have negative impact on employee well-being, (H3) Machiavellian personality traits will be more prevalent in males than females; (H4) Machiavellianism leads to greater career success; (H5) Machiavellians experience lower job satisfaction; and (H6) Machiavellians will demonstrate higher turnover intentions than their counterparts. The sample consisted of 319 UK-based working professionals who were recruited via the social media site LinkedIn. Participants completed an online questionnaire comprised of amended validated tools measuring levels of Surface Acting, Idiocentrism, Machiavellianism, participants’ well-being, career success, job satisfaction and turnover intentions. The analysis focused on Independent Sample T-Test and Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) - model fit testing. SEM revealed a positive correlation between the elements of the ego-centric triad. Nevertheless, the elements did not have a unified effect upon employees’ states at work, as only Machiavellianism demonstrated a negative impact upon employees’ well-being. Individualistic cultural orientation (Idiocentrism) was linked to decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover intentions, while Surface Acting had the opposite effect of decreasing turnover intentions. The main variable of interest - Machiavellianism - demonstrated a negative impact upon employees’ well-being, career success and job satisfaction factors, all of which served as the mediating variables for increased turnover intentions. Furthermore, the independent sample T-Test showed that gender does not serve as an antecedent to Machiavellianism. The research contributes to existing theoretical knowledge by introducing the ego-centric triad and demonstrating that the ‘Dark Side’ of emotional labour cannot be attributed to emotion management strategies alone but includes additional factors such as cultural orientation (Idiocentrism) and personality traits (Machiavellianism). The research also has practical implications, demonstrating that recruitment and selection strategies should pay attention to these undesirable characteristics; as they have negative implications for individuals and organisations alike. Furthermore, organisations need to invest more efforts in management of employee well-being as emotional labour contributes to impaired well-being in high Machiavellians, who may not necessarily exhibit obvious signs. Study two aimed to establish the validity of Machiavellian responses and to ascertain the level of confidence that can be placed on the findings deriving from Study one. It asked the following question: ‘RQ3 - Does the social attractiveness effect take place in anonymous self-reports when ego-centric qualities are of concern?’ and hypothesised (H7) that Machiavellianism is positively related to self-rating bias, and therefore high Machiavellians will under-report their true level of amoral values and behavioural practices to a much greater extent than will low Machiavellians. Participant sample consisted of 16 UK-based working professionals who were asked to complete an online MACH IV test and to provide an e-mail sample of their workplace correspondence. One-way Anova was used to compare the scores from the MACH IV test against the scores deriving from Lingustic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) analysis assessing Machiavellian attributes (use of personal pronoun ‘I’, negative emotions, analytic and clout dimension, power and rewards drives) evident within the workplace correspondence (e-mails). Therefore, the focus was upon reported versus observed levels of Machiavellianism. The results showed that individuals exhibited minor self-report bias at all levels of Machiavellianism (low, medium and high). Self-reported low Machiavellians demonstrated the lowest level of Machiavellianism (despite minor under-reporting), while self-reported medium Machiavellians demonstrated the highest level of Machiavellianism. Surprisingly, self-reported high Machiavellians demonstrated a medium level of Machiavellianism. Therefore, low and high Machiavellians under-reported, while medium Machiavellians over-reported their levels of amoral values and practice. The research findings support the notion of self-report bias and demonstrate that manipulative behaviour becomes acceptable in a workplace environment; as a result, high Machiavellians freely admit to their amoral values and behaviours. The research has also shown that self-reporting bias are evident across all levels of Machiavellianism. Therefore, whenever possible, objective measures should be included when investigating undesirable traits, values and behaviours. Study three investigated the sources of Machiavellian tendencies, their amoral values and behaviours by asking the following research question: ‘RQ4 - Where do Machiavellian tendencies stem from? Are upbringing practices or organisational cultures responsible for employees’ personal values and subsequent behaviour within an intra-organisational setting?’ Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 participants (UK-based working professionals). The Mach IV test was employed to segment participants into high and low Machiavellians, while Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was utilised to investigate the sources of amoral values between the two groups. The results showed that the amoral values of both groups derived from upbringing practices and have a tendency to mirror parental values. Additionally, such values are relatively stable over time and unaffected by the institutional values deriving from organisational culture. Therefore, organisational culture and institutional values do not possess the power to override morality related values. However, workplaces that allow the presence of organisational politics provide positive stimuli for Machiavellianism, enabling high Machiavellians to flourish while alienating low Machiavellians. Despite the control measure (continuous employment in an organisation for three years or more), the cross-sectional design served as a limitation and further research is required to validate these findings.
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