Are coworkers getting into the act? An examination of emotion regulation in coworker exchanges

Allison S. Gabriel, Joel Koopman, Christopher C. Rosen, John D. Arnold, Wayne A. Hochwarter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Research on emotional labor-the process through which employees enact emotion regulation (i.e., surface and deep acting) to alter their emotional displays-has predominately focused on service-based exchanges between employees and customers where emotions are commoditized for wage. Yet, recent research has begun to focus on the outcomes of employees engaging in emotion regulation, and surface acting in particular, with coworkers. Given that coworker interactions are qualitatively distinct from those with customers, we build on the emotional labor and emotion regulation literatures to understand why such acts of emotion regulation occur in coworker-based exchanges, and whether there are well-being and social capital costs and/or benefits for doing so. Across 3 complementary studies spanning over 2,500 full-time employees, we adopt a person-centered approach and demonstrate that four distinct profiles of emotion regulation emerge in coworker exchanges: deep actors, nonactors, low actors, and regulators. Further, our results suggest that certain employees are driven to regulate their emotions with coworkers for prosocial reasons (deep actors), whereas others are more driven by impression management motives (regulators). Our results also suggest that while nonactors and deep actors similarly incur well-being benefits (i.e., lower emotional exhaustion and felt inauthenticity), deep actors alone experience social capital gains in the form of higher receipt of help from coworkers, as well as increased goal progress and trust in their coworkers. Combined, our research delineates the motives that drive emotion regulation with coworkers and identifies when such regulatory efforts yield social capital gains for employees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)907-929
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotion regulation
  • Emotional labor
  • Latent profile analysis
  • Social capital
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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