Abstract: Emotional Labor, Job Demands, and Emotional Exhaustion in Kidney Transplant Social Workers (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12314 Emotional Labor, Job Demands, and Emotional Exhaustion in Kidney Transplant Social Workers

Sunday, January 17, 2010: 8:45 AM
Pacific Concourse K (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Joseph R. Merighi, PhD , Boston University, Associate Professor, Boston, MA
Teri Browne , University of South Carolina, Assistant Professor, Columbia, SC
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: To be effective practitioners, social workers need to be highly proficient at managing their emotions on the job. For example, social workers are at risk to suffer from physical and emotional exhaustion because their jobs often require them to be emotionally accessible to care seekers and to display organizationally desired responses. The management of such workplace emotions is referred to as emotional labor. Because emotional labor is intrinsic to social work practice, the meaning and influence of emotional reactions on a social worker's professional comportment and well-being merit investigation. The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between various approaches used to manage one's emotions in the workplace and feeling emotionally exhausted. This study replicates a national survey conducted with in-center dialysis social workers.

METHODS: A sample of 91 kidney transplant social workers from all 50 U.S. states was used for this study. Participants were predominantly female (91%) and White (93%), and their social work practice experience ranged from 1 to 40 years (Mdn = 15.0, M = 16.8, SD = 10.2). The survey respondents were obtained by generating a list of all transplant programs in operation throughout the United States in March 2008 (N = 247), and sending a letter to each program with details about how to access the online survey. In addition, a study announcement was distributed on the Council of Nephrology Social Worker listserv and was posted on the Society of Transplant Social Workers website. The survey contained 177 items and took approximately 40 minutes to complete. The following measures were used: Job Satisfaction Survey, Job-Related Affective Well-Being Scale, Job-Related Emotional Exhaustion Scale, Quantitative Workload Inventory, Emotional Labor Scale, and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule.

RESULTS: Hierarchical regression analysis was used to test the relationship between four types of emotional labor (surface acting–hiding; surface acting–faking; deep acting–managing; deep acting–refocusing) and job-related emotional exhaustion, after controlling for gender, negative affectivity, workload demands, hours worked per week, and number of people assisted per day. The final model was statistically significant (F = 19.03, p < .001) and explained 70.4% of the variance (adjusted R square = .667). Findings indicated that two types of emotional labor (i.e., surface acting–hiding and deep acting–managing) significantly predicted emotional exhaustion (p <. 01) and explained 11% of the variance in the final model.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Research on the expression of emotions in the workplace offers important conceptual understandings of the deleterious effect that hiding one's true feelings about a person or situation can have on well-being. Findings can be used by students, field agency supervisors, and social work practitioners to understand the importance of authentic emotional expression in the workplace, and to develop professionally appropriate ways to manage emotionally difficult situations on the job.