Emotional labor of customer service employees in China

Yuyan Zhang, Alexandra Luong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: The current study aims to examine the antecedents and outcomes of emotional labor strategies (i.e. surface acting and deep acting) among service employees in China. The study proposed employees’ perceived closeness with customers and customers’ socioeconomic status will predict deep acting and surface acting, respectively. It further examined the mediating role of emotional labor between perceived customer attributes and employee well-being (i.e. burnout and job satisfaction). Design/methodology/approach: One hundred and one employees at a jewelry store in China completed a survey regarding their perceptions of customers, use of emotional labor and well-being (e.g. job satisfaction and burnout). Correlational and regression analyses were conducted to examine the predictors and outcomes of different emotional labor strategies. Findings: Perceived closeness with the customer group predicted employees’ use of deep acting, whereas perceived customer socioeconomic status did not predict the use of surface acting. Deep acting was negatively related with burnout, whereas surface acting did not predict burnout. Deep acting mediated the relationship between perceived closeness with customers and burnout. Practical implications: To maintain employee well-being, organizations can promote a service climate to enhance employees’ perceived relationship with customers. Originality/value: The study specifies the interpersonal context in which employees use different emotional labor strategies; the perceived closeness with customers predicts less burnout via the use of more deep acting. This study also supplements the existing research on emotional labor based on a Chinese sample; deep acting predicts employee well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-16
Number of pages15
JournalNankai Business Review International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 21 2019


  • Customer service
  • Deep acting
  • Emotional labor
  • Individualism-collectivism
  • Surface acting


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