Service With a Smile, Drives People to Drink

People who force themselves to smile and look happy in front of customers or try to hide how annoyed they are may be at risk for heavier drinking after work, according to a team of researchers from Penn State and the University at Buffalo.

Researchers studied the drinking habits of people who routinely work with the public in a variety of fields, from people in the food service industry to nurses and teachers. Researchers found that people who pretend to display positive feelings or suppress negative feelings were more likely to engage in heavier drinking after work.

More so than stresses of the job or feeling negatively about work, faking and suppressing emotions with customers was most related to drinking. Previous research has shown a connection between service workers and problems with drinking, but the reasons were unknown.

For the study, the researchers used information from phone interviews with 1,592 US workers. The information included how often people faked or suppressed emotions, also called “surface acting,” as well as how often and how much they drank after work.

The researchers found people drink more after work when their line of work requires interaction with the public, compared to those whose work doesn’t require public interaction, and “surface acting” increases the probability of heavy drinking.

The results, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, suggested that “surface acting” is less likely to drive people to drink if they find their line of work to be personally rewarding. In other words, helping the sick or consoling the dying by “pretending” to be cheerful doesn’t quite crush the human spirit like sucking up to some scumbag who doesn’t like their their latte.



Photo: “A Smile With Every Meal” by Andrew Stawarz is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0