Academic journal article International Journal of Employment Studies

Emotion Regulation and Burnout among Malaysian HR Managers: The Moderating Role of Big Five Personality Traits

Academic journal article International Journal of Employment Studies

Emotion Regulation and Burnout among Malaysian HR Managers: The Moderating Role of Big Five Personality Traits

Article excerpt


Research on emotions in the workplace has become increasingly important as employers come to realise that emotions lie at the core of workplace interactions and a variety of outcomes (Biron & van Veldhoven 2012; Hochschild 1983). Emotion regulation has emerged as key to understanding how emotions are experienced and displayed at work and their impact on employee performance, especially among employees who have high levels of interpersonal contact with internal and external clients (Brackett et al. 2010; Mayer & Salovey 1990). Emotion regulation refers to 'the process of regulating both feelings and expressions for organisational goals' or social norms, and is deemed critical to a broad category of service workers (Grandey 2000, p. 97; Hochschild 1983). Employees can use certain strategies such as surface or deep-acting to regulate their emotions (Brotheridge & Grandey 2002; Groth, Hennig-Thurau & Walsh 2009).

Although the decision whether to reveal or conceal one's personal emotions at work is often part of an individual's autonomy (Rohrmann et al 2011), in service orientated professions like human resource professionals, the freedom to reveal one's authentic emotions might conflict with organisational structures and professional roles, thereby forcing employees to suppress negative emotions and display positive ones (Schaubroeck & Jones 2000). The act of regulating one's emotions however, does not come without costs. Studies have shown that emotion regulation is associated with poor health and lowered wellbeing (Brotheridge & Grandey 2002; Hopp et al. 2010; Goldberg & Grandey 2007). Employees who are forced to engage in emotion regulation are more likely to experience significant role conflict, strain (Rohrmann et al. 2011) and burnout (Ashkanasy, Hartel & Daus 2002; Bono & Vey 2005; Kahnweiler & Kahnweiler 2005; Metz et al. 2012)

Although previous studies have explored the cumulative effects of emotion regulation on burnout (Judge, Woolf & Hurst 2009), little is known about the role of individual differences in this relationship. While personality has long been recognised as an important determinant of burnout, its influence on emotion regulation remains ill understood (Bakker et al. 2006; Kim 2008). This is surprising given that Judge et al. (2009) found individual differences to be important in understanding the differential impact of emotional regulations on employees working in service roles.

There is considerable evidence that individuals vary in their appraisal of strain arising from emotional labour (Diefendorf & Richard 2003; Bono & Vey 2005; Diefendorff, Croylle & Gosserand 2005). As such, burnout researchers consider both the main and buffering effects of dispositional (personality) and socio-psychological variables on burnout (Bakker, Van Der Zee, Lewig & Dollard 2006). It has been argued that 'buffering effects occur when individual differences in burnout reflect differential reactions to stressful situations' (Bakker et al. 2006, p. 38). Some personalities react more negatively when exposed to stressful conditions while others do not. Although previous studies have considered trait emotional intelligence as a moderator of emotion regulation on burnout (Ghalandari & Jogh 2012), little is known about how personality might moderate this relationship (Abraham 1999; Bono & Vey 2007). The few studies that have looked into the relationship have focused mainly on extroversion and trait anger (ie Rohrmann et al. 2011)

The present study therefore makes an important and timely contribution to the literature by exploring the role of personality as a potential moderator in the emotion regulation-burnout relationship. Additionally, the study further contributes to the wider literature on emotions in the workplace, and to the more specific literature on employee burnout in service-oriented jobs. …

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