Moving emotional labor beyond surface and deep acting: A discordance–congruence perspective

Jessica R. Mesmer-Magnus, Leslie A. DeChurch*, Amy Wax

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


Emotional labor (EL) is the process by which employees manage their true feelings in order to express organizationally desired emotional displays. We develop and test components of an organizing framework for emotional labor wherein various aspects of emotional labor are understood through the underlying discordance versus congruence in felt versus displayed emotions. Meta-analytic results from 109 independent studies (total N = 36,619) demonstrate that discordant emotional labor states are associated with a range of harmful consequences (health-, attitudinal-, and performance-related), whereas congruent emotional labor states do not incur these harmful consequences. We identify different patterns of worker-and work-related correlates on the basis of emotional discordance–congruence, as well as interesting occupational differences in these relationships. Lastly, we find discordant forms of emotional labor partially mediate the effects of organizational display rules on burnout, whereas congruent states do not mediate this relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-53
Number of pages48
JournalOrganizational Psychology Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotional labor
  • Emotions and moods
  • Meta-analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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