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Faking your emotions at work can damage your career: Here’s what to do instead

Faking it does not help you make it.

Faking your emotions at work can damage your career: Here’s what to do instead
[Photo: fauxels/Pexels]
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This just in: Slapping a fake smile on your face on the job won’t work. More than half of employees do just that, and it wreaks havoc on their careers.

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A set of three studies of 2,500 full-time workers out this week in the Journal of Applied Psychology finds that employees who genuinely express their emotions to coworkers reap huge workplace benefits, including support from coworkers, help with workload, coworker advice and trust, and increased progress toward work goals. “Plastering on a smile to simply get out of an interaction is easier in the short run, but long-term, it will undermine efforts to improve your health and the relationships you have at work,” said Allison Gabriel, associate professor of management and organizations at the University of Arizona, in a statement.

The key is to avoid “surface acting,” which is displaying pleasantness or positivity while feeling upset or frustrated on the inside. Rather, you want to “deep act,” which is when you genuinely try to change how you feel inside and express those feelings externally, so that your inside feelings match what you’re expressing. Deep acting tends to be motivated by wanting positive relationships rather than any career advancement or impression management.

Your coworkers regulate their emotions in one of four ways:

  • Non acting. This is rare.
  • Low acting. A bit of acting.
  • Deep acting. Lots of deep acting and minimal surface acting, usually motivated by a desire to be a good coworker.
  • Regulating. Piling on both surface and deep acting, often driven by impression management.

Though there are roughly equal numbers of low actors, deep actors, and regulators, only deep actors benefit from their strategy, building lots of social capital over time.

Avoid regulating; it’s straining. “Regulators suffered the most on our markers of well-being, including increased levels of feeling emotionally exhausted and inauthentic at work,” says Gabriel.

You can now spend the rest of your day stealthily identifying your coworkers’ regulation styles. Ready, go.