Forcing a smile at work linked with more drinking after hours

Henrietta Strickland
April 15, 2019

The study followed the drinking habits of public-facing employees in such industries as food service, nursing and teaching, with data coming from phone interviews with 1,592 workers from a larger survey called the National Survey of Work Stress and Health.

The findings showed workers who force smiles and act happy in front of customers had a higher risk of engaging in heavy drinking when they were off the clock. This study hypothesizes that when people have to control themselves at work - like not rolling their eyes, for example - they have a harder time controlling themselves in other areas.

She added: "It wasn't just feeling badly that makes them reach for a drink".

Alicia Grandey, professor of psychology at Penn State, says results suggest that employers may want to rethink their policies. "The researchers also measured how impulsive the participants are and how much autonomy they feel they have at work", the studied stated.

"Overall, surface acting was robustly related to heavy drinking, even after controlling for demographics, job demands, and negative affectivity, consistent with an explanation of impaired self-control", researchers wrote. "In these jobs, there's also often money tied to showing positive emotions and holding back negative feelings". Money gives you a motivation to override your natural tendencies, but doing it all day can be wearing'.

"Surface acting predicted drinking after work only for employees with low self-control jobs or traits; this effect was exacerbated for those with service encounters (i.e., customers and the public) and buffered for those with service relationships (i.e., patients, students, and clients)". They hope workers will be able to use this information to create a healthier environment.

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