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Collateral Damage From the Show: Emotional Labor and Unethical Behavior

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 September 2017

Michelle C. Hong
Texas A&M University-Kingsville
Christopher M. Barnes
University of Washington
Brent A. Scott
Michigan State University


We extend the behavioral ethics literature to examining emotional labor as an antecedent to unethical behavior. We hypothesize that surface acting is positively associated with unethical behavior. In contrast, we produce competing hypotheses for the relationship between deep acting and unethical behavior. In Study 1, with a field sample of 123 full-time employees, surface acting was positively associated with unethical behavior, and emotional inauthenticity explained some of this relationship. In contrast, deep acting was not associated with unethical behavior. In Study 2, with a field sample of 117 full-time employees, we replicated the effect of surface acting in Study 1 and found a positive relationship between deep acting and unethical behavior via emotional inauthenticity. In Study 3, using a two-wave design, we replicated the results in Study 2 and found perceived fairness strengthens the relationship between surface acting and unethical behavior through emotional inauthenticity.

Copyright © Society for Business Ethics 2017 

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