Service with a smile may be making personnel miserable. Photo Credit: Radoslaw Drozdzewski/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Most people who work in the service trades have been mandated to give “service with a smile” to customers. Happiness is not always genuine, and forced smiles are making workers miserable.

Study finds fake smiles take emotional toll

According to the Daily Mail, a research study is being presented to the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology concerning the effects on workers’ mental health of the “service with a smile” mandate.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Northampton, University of Southampton and the University of Madrid, selected 199 random people working in various customer service occupations to fill out a questionnaire. The survey asks how much emotion has to be faked for the job, how much effort is required and to what extent it left them exhausted or cynical, emotionally.

The results indicate that those who had to fake a smile were left more emotionally drained and jaded than their cheerful counterparts. In other words, people who have to “fake it to make it” are putting themselves through the ringer to do so.

Previous study supports premise

A previous study, released in 2011, found similarly that faking a smile when dealing with the public led to employees becoming withdrawn, and their work performance suffered for it, according to the Telegraph. The study, which was done by Dr. Brent Scott at Michigan State University, looked at a group of city bus drivers over a period of a few weeks, according to the New York Times. The study assessed the affects of genuine smiles, which came from “deep acting” or an actual positive emotion, and of false smiles or “surface acting,” or when a smile is forced.

The study found that forcing a smile made workers’ moods worse. They tended to withdraw from work  and were less productive, compared to when they genuinely smiled, which had the opposite effect. The study also found women were more affected than men.

Better to frown than turning it upside down

The common thread seems to be that it’s bad for people to put on a facsimile of a smile. The effort is draining and it can feel demeaning to be told to be happy or else.

There are some ways to tell, according to MSNBC, if someone is not genuine in flashing pearly whites. Dr. Erin Heeley, of Bangor University in Wales, says it is all in the eyes. The corners of a person’s eyes have “laugh lines,” wrinkles that form while laughing or grinning like the Cheshire Cat. Those wrinkles, which are formed by the orbicularis oculi muscles, only form during a genuine smile, which uses the entire face.


Daily Mail


New York Times


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