Macquarie University
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Emotion regulation in ongoing service relationships: a mixed-method study with aged care employees

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posted on 2022-04-11, 04:28 authored by Bichen Guan

Managing emotions effectively is extremely important in today's workplace. To manage emotional demands, employees use different emotion regulation (ER) strategies which subsequently influence personal and job-related outcomes. Many ER studies have been conducted in short-term service encounter contexts, but researchers have rarely considered the ongoing nature of many service interactions. The processes and outcomes of ER in ongoing service relationships are important to examine, given that such relationships may provide social rewards for employees but also involve unique ER challenges. The thesis examines the processes and outcomes of ER in ongoing service relationships by way of four studies conducted in aged care settings. Aged care employees have repeated interactions and ongoing service relationships with elderly residents and are required to manage a range of emotional demands. In Study 1, to investigate the processes of ER, 42 in-depth interviews were conducted with aged care employees and managers in China. The dynamic processes involved in switching ER strategies under the influence of organizational display rules and employee-client relationships were identified in a filial piety culture. In Study 2, 66 in-depth interviews were conducted with aged care employees and managers in Australia to investigate the impact of relational characteristics on ER. Results demonstrate that whether employees have exchange or communal or hybrid relationships with elderly clients can influence employees' use of ER strategies at work. In Study 3, 336 Australian aged care employees were surveyed to examine the effects of regulating one's own and others' emotions on job burnout and the moderating role that dispositional gratitude plays in the relationships between ER strategies and burnout. Using ER strategies can help employees feel accomplished at work but may deplete emotional resources and lead to emotional detachment with clients. Gratitude acts as a positive personal resource to buffer burnout when employees regulate others' but not their own emotions. In Study 4, 221 Australian aged care employees were surveyed to examine whether dispositional communal orientation influences the use of particular ER strategies and indirectly affects well-being. Results show that communal orientation is negatively related to emotional exhaustion via the ER strategy of reappraisal. Supervisors' expressions of compassion strengthen the indirect effect. Overall, results of this thesis suggest that ongoing employee-client relationships embody norms and expectations around the experience and expression of emotions, and that ER processes, individual affect, and organizational culture are inextricably linked to employee well-being in the workplace.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction -- Chapter 2: Study 1. Keep calm and carry on: Emotion regulation dynamics in ongoing service relationships -- Chapter 3: Study 2. She was my nan at work: Exploring communal relationships and emotion regulation strategies -- Chapter 4: Study 3. Burnout from emotion regulation at work: The moderating role of gratitude -- Chapter 5: Study 4. Does caring for others make me exhausted? An examination of communal orientation, ER strategies, and supervisor compassion -- Chapter 6: General discussion -- Complete list of references -- Appendices


"February 2020" A thesis submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Includes bibliographical references (pages 263‐296) Thesis by publication

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Macquarie Business School, 2020

Department, Centre or School

Department of Management

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Denise Jepsen

Additional Supervisor 1

Julie Fitness

Additional Supervisor 2

Candy Lu


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Bichen Guan 2020.




1 online resource (xiii, 307 pages)

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