I work for my own: The effect of psychological ownership on emotional labor

Primary Author: Lu Yuan

Faculty Sponsor: Jenny Kim


Primary College/Unit: Carson College of Business

Category: Business, Communication, and Politial Sciences

Campus: Pullman





Service workers experience stress not only from frivolous behavioral tasks but emotional display rules required during customer contacts. Stress grows even larger when authentic emotions differ from required expressions during work. Psychological ownership in the organization induces affective attachment, makes employees consider the organization as their extended self and feel responsible for customers to benefit the firm. Consequently, personal goals keep consistent with organizational goals and this enables employees to display genuine, positive emotions and service behavior. This influence of psychological ownership on employees’ customer-oriented behavior and emotional acting, which refers to emotional labor, have drawn little attention up to now.

The purpose of this paper is to explore the influence of employees’ psychological ownership on their emotional labor directly and indirectly through customer orientation. Additionally, this paper explores how job autonomy interacts with customer orientation and affects employees’ deep and surface acting behavior.


Survey data were collected from 251 employees in 4 Chinese 5-star hotels. All the variables were measured by reliable scales developed and validated by existing studies. SEM was employed for the paths analysis.


Results demonstrate psychological ownership has a positive, direct influence on deep acting and an indirect influence on deep acting through customer orientation. Conversely, psychological ownership shows a direct, negative association with surface acting, and an indirect association with surface acting through customer orientation. Further, the positive influence of customer orientation on deep acting is stronger in a high-autonomy condition. This moderation effect does not show for surface acting.