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

Journal of Business Ethics 159 (2):507-518 (2019)
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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 but relates positively to deep acting 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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