During my work as a police officer, I encountered many emotional demanding situations in which my colleagues and I often seemed to act unfelt emotions or suppressed emotions that would better not be displayed at that particular moment. For instance, during my first weeks of duty I wondered how police officers could stay seemingly untouched while being confronted with drunk and offensive people. One colleague once told me: “I don’t take it personally, it’s part of the job and so it doesn’t frustrate me anymore”. At other times, it turned out to be proper to display empathy although this emotion was not always genuinely felt (anymore). In contrast, when interrogating a criminal I learned that sometimes acting friendly may help to acquire important information. Otherwise, unfelt emotions such as anger had to be displayed in order to correct an offender and to prevent an interaction from escalating. These anecdotes illustrate the benefits of acting emotions during the work of police officers. Moreover, emotions form an inherent part of people’s (work) lives on a daily basis. Not surprisingly, the management and display of emotions in the workplace receives considerable attention as they may influence both individual well-being and organizational outcomes. The term emotional labor was first introduced by Hochschild (1983) and refers to how employees regulate their emotions as part of the work role and the consequences of doing so. The types of emotions that a company considers appropriate to show to clients are often part of its policy and are part of the company’s socalled display rules (Ekman, 1973; Grandey, 2000). To adhere to these display rules, employees may engage in emotional labor by suppressing felt emotions or displaying emotions that are different from their genuinely experienced emotions (Hochschild, 1983). This emotion regulation technique, termed surface acting, may lead to emotional dissonance, which refers to a state of discrepancy between felt and displayed emotions. Accumulating evidence from the past three decades reveals that both surface acting and emotional dissonance are detrimental to employee well-being (cf. Ashfort & Humphrey, 1993; Mesmer-Magnus, DeChurch, & Wax, 2012; Zapf, 2002).

emotional labor, police officers
A.B. Bakker (Arnold) , E.A. Konijn (Elly A.)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

van Gelderen, B.R. (2013, June 6). At the Heart of Policing: Emotional labor among police officers. Erasmus University Rotterdam. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/40298