Are You Surface Acting At Work?

An interview with Dr. Sarah Rose Cavanagh, associate professor of psychology at Assumption College about how surface acting affects employees.


We engage in surface acting when we intentionally portray emotions that we aren’t currently feeling. This can happen when we need to exude positivity (think of the folks working at Disney World) and when we need to hide negative emotions, such as masking your immediate dislike of a colleague’s proposal. The degree of surface acting required by your job varies based on the type of work you do. It has been most extensively studied in service workers, who need to put on a bright pleasant smile for most of their working hours—even when interacting with unpleasant customers. But I think any job that requires you to interact and work with other people, be they your employees or managers or clients, requires some degree of surface acting in order to maintain group cohesion.


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