Being Somebody Else: Emotional Labour and Emotional Dissonance in the Context of the Service Experience at a Heritage Tourism Site

Article excerpt

Hospitality and tourism-based service-providers are subject to negative stress outcomes associated with the performance of emotional labour, such as emotional exhaustion. Research on emotional labour and associated outcomes is, however, lacking in heritage tourism sites. Emotional dissonance is one such stressor that is reported to exist when expressed emotions are in an organisationally desired form but are incongruent with those felt. Literature to date, however, has failed to clearly differentiate between the performance of emotional labour and the experience of emotional dissonance. The present study examined the relationship between emotional labour and emotional dissonance using concepts derived from cognitive dissonance theory. A series of semistructured interviews were conducted with employees across a range of service roles at a heritage museum tourism site. Evaluation of the data suggests that emotional labour and emotional dissonance are distinct constructs and that the negative outcomes of emotional labour are linked to conflicting cognitive appraisals.


It can be exhausting being somebody else ... to bring out emotions in other people ... that is exhausting ... I'm using energy and I'm using emotions, and using my face, and using my body, and using my head, and, yes, you're using up everything ... That can make you ... tired. (Heritage Tourism Employee)

Emotional Labour and Service Provision

The behaviour of the tourism-based service provider is recognised as being central to the quality of the service provided and the level of satisfaction of the service receiver (Mattila & Enz, 2002; Price, Arnould, & Deibler, 1994). This behaviour is referred to as emotional labour and is defined as the display of the appropriate emotional expression conforming to organisational requirements for a wage. Emotional labour is becoming a more prevailing aspect of the work experience and merits greater attention than ever before (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1993; Leidner, 1999). Tourism-based activities are increasingly focused on the creation of authentic experiences through visitor engagement (Franklin & Crang, 2001; Olsen, 2002). The ever-increasing use of emotional labour to meet such demands in tourism-oriented organisations is an area that requires investigation given the paucity of empirical data in this field to date (Beardsworth & Bryman, 2001). Of specific interest, are the associated outcomes for the tourism-based employee when performing emotional labour. The ability of the service provider to deal with the inherent stresses and emotional demands of their working environment as they perform emotional labour has an impact on their behaviour and consequently the quality of service provided.

While tourism-based researchers have suggested a range of coping strategies for managing the impact of emotional labour (Anderson, Provis, & Chappel, 2002) research to date has failed to consider the range of responses, both positive and negative, to the management of emotional labour in the service experience. Of central concern in the identification of coping strategies is the management of the emotional dissonance that may occur as a consequence of performing emotional labour. The mixed findings in research thus far on the outcomes associated with emotional labour may in part be due to a lack of conceptual clarity regarding the construct of emotional labour and its relationship with emotional dissonance.

This article will begin with a review of the construct of emotional labour and the role of organisational display rules within the context of hospitality and tourism services. This will be followed by an evaluation of research literature on the construct of emotional dissonance. It is the identification and management of emotional dissonance that is the central focus of the present study. It will be argued that the inconclusive results found in previous studies linking emotional labour with negative job outcomes is partly due to an incomplete understanding of the nature and function of emotional dissonance resulting from emotional labour, and that further research exploring the response of service providers to the experience of emotional dissonance is now required. …