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Does Servant Leadership Affect Employees’ Emotional Labor? A Social Information-Processing Perspective

Abstract

Emotion management in the workplace is drawing increasing attention from researchers. However, they still know little about how positive leadership affects employees’ emotional labor. Building on social information-processing theory, we examine whether and how a servant leadership style influences employees’ emotional labor. Using a sample of 305 employees in 81 work units of 25 subcorporations at a food company in China, we find that servant leadership relates negatively to surface acting (i.e., regulating facial expressions) but relates positively to deep acting (i.e., regulating inner feelings) at work. We also find that the indirect effect of servant leadership on surface/deep acting via affective trust is stronger than the indirect effect via cognitive trust. Our research reveals that servant leadership influences employees’ emotional labor more through affective trust than cognitive trust. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our findings.

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Acknowledgements

We appreciate the support of National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no.71672139) and Humanities and Social Science Talent Plan of Shaanxi Province.

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Correspondence to Junting Lu.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Lu, J., Zhang, Z. & Jia, M. Does Servant Leadership Affect Employees’ Emotional Labor? A Social Information-Processing Perspective. J Bus Ethics 159, 507–518 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-3816-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-3816-3

Keywords

  • Servant leadership
  • Affective trust
  • Cognitive trust
  • Surface acting
  • Deep acting