Academic journal article International Management Review

Licensed Funeral Directors: An Empirical Analysis of the Dimensions and Consequences of Emotional Labor

Academic journal article International Management Review

Licensed Funeral Directors: An Empirical Analysis of the Dimensions and Consequences of Emotional Labor

Article excerpt

[Abstract]

This study addresses the emotive dissonance and emotive effort dimensions of emotional labor and their relationships to the emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, personal accomplishments, and job satisfaction consequences of emotional labor with respect to licensed funeral directors. Four hypotheses were formulated. Emotive dissonance resulted in higher levels of emotional exhaustion. An inverse relationship resulted with higher levels of emotive effort, indicating lower levels of depersonalization. No support was revealed for higher levels of emotive dissonance being indicative of lower levels of job satisfaction; and higher level of emotive effort resulting in higher levels of job satisfaction. Implications for future research are also discussed.

[Keywords] Emotional labor; emotional dissonance; emotional exhaustion; depersonalization; job satisfaction

Introduction

Death is an inevitable occurrence. Normally, people do not want to talk about it or think about it, let alone be around it. However, those in the funeral services industry have chosen to deal with death daily. It is one of the few industries that survive as a result of death. In addition to the physical labor requirements of the job (e.g. removal of the deceased, embalming), the licensed funeral director is also required to perform emotional labor. As one of his greatest tasks, he shoulders the responsibility of comforting the bereaved as they prepare to make final arrangements for their loved ones. In this capacity, the licensed funeral director is expected to appear understanding, sympathetic, and somber about his potential clients' loss. Although his experienced personal emotions may not match the expected job related emotions, by displaying the expected emotions, the funeral director aspires to encourage the bereaved to entrust the care of their loved one to his establishment.

This requirement to invoke or suppress personal emotions (feelings) in order to display appropriate job-related emotions in an attempt to yield desired customer responses, is called emotional labor (Hochschild, 1983). In examining the emotional labor theory, researchers have considered a wide array of occupations, including flight attendants (Hochschild, 1983), table servers (Adelmann, 1989), Disneyland employees (Van Maanen & Kunda, 1989), cashiers (Rafaeli & Sutton, 1987, 1990; Rafaeli, 1989; Tolich, 1993), bank employees, and hospital workers (Wharton, 1993), the majority of which require workers to behave exceptionally enthusiastically. What are the effects of emotional labor in an occupation where the clients and workers are interacting over what is described as the most emotion invoking aspect of life- death (Lofland, 1982; Gentry, Kennedy, Paul & Hill, 1995)?

Purpose of Study

A research void in the emotional labor literature is the lack of research efforts directed toward discerning the relationships between dimensions (emotive dissonance and emotive effort) and consequences (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, personal accomplishments and job satisfaction) of emotional labor focusing on the funeral services industry. This research effort purports to be at the preliminary stage toward bridging the gap. The purpose of this data-based study is two fold: 1) to examine the relationships between the dimensions and consequences of emotional labor among licensed funeral directors; and 2) to determine if the dimensions and consequences of emotional labor among licensed funeral directors reflect study results reported in prior researched service occupations advanced in the literature.

Emotional Labor

Until recently, emotional labor was an unacknowledged, yet effort-intensive, skill-intensive, and productive part of a service worker's job (Morris & Feldman, 1996; Steinberg & Figart, 1999). Measurements reveal that three-fourths of the U.S. gross national product (GNP) and nine out of every ten newly created jobs are service related (Zeithaml, Parasuraman, & Berry, 1990). …

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