The Politics of Emotion: The Relationship between Emotional Labor and Political Skill across Job Types within the IT/IS Profession

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The DATA BASE for Advances in Information Systems




In this study we examined the relationship between two interpersonal constructs, emotional labor and political skill, finding that they are related. People who possess high levels of political skill and people who perceive high expectations to express positive emotions at work are likely to make efforts to internalize their display of positive emotions through deep acting. People who perceive high expectations to suppress negative emotions at work are likely to engage in superficial displays of emotion through surface acting. We then examined whether these relationships held across job types within the IT/IS industry, an understudied industry with regard to either emotional labor or political skill. We found that perceptions of positive display rules and levels of political skill differed by job type, but that perceptions of negative display rules, surface acting and deep acting did not. In particular, analysts and managers have higher perceptions of positive display rules and higher levels of political skill than do programmers and technical support personnel. These findings encourage further research on the relationship between emotional labor and political skill, along with further comparisons of emotional labor and political skill across job types within a single industry. The findings also suggest that emotional labor capabilities and level of political skill be a consideration when selecting and matching IT/IS personnel to particular job types. Once IT/IS personnel are hired, the findings of this study indicate that development programs for them should include training that will increase their emotional labor capabilities and their level of political skill.