Emotional labour in luxury hospitality: A comparative study between U.K. and Vietnamese hospitality workers
Authors: Giousmpasoglou, C.
Start date: 4 September 2017
The growing attention on the understanding and employment of emotional labour in the luxury hospitality sector, is the result of a customer/market driven demand for service excellence and personalisation since the late 1990s. Emotional labour is the management of one’s emotions in order to achieve specific organisational outcomes (Van Dijk, et al. 2011); it can be performed by either faking emotions (‘surface acting’) or by managing felt emotions to be ‘authentic’ (deep acting) (Hochschild 1983). The existing research is largely based on the western context thus it is difficult to suggest that this concept can work the same way in a non-western context. This research aims to explore the mediating role of national culture on emotional labour; more specifically it investigates the similarities and differences in terms of emotional labour adoption, between hospitality workers in the U.K. and Vietnam.
A survey questionnaire (both in electronic and hard copy form) has been distributed in approximately 200 hospitality workers located in both countries. The survey questionnaire design was based on the Dutch Questionnaire on Emotional Labour (D-QEL), a well-established tool used also in different contexts and occupational groups such as nurses and teachers (Näring et al. 2012). The two sets of responses (from the UK and Vietnam) are presented and analysed by the employment of quantitative methods (descriptive statistics). The data also incorporate a qualitative element; this refers to the part of the survey questionnaire where participants had the opportunity to share their opinions about emotional labour in their own cultural context.
Building on Hofstede’s (1983, 2001) interpretation of cultural differences based on the national context, the findings suggest that both differences and similarities among hospitality employees in the UK and Vietnam. More specifically, the key differences are focused on the level of assertiveness, empathy, commitment and teamwork. On the other hand employees from both contexts are willing to undertake risks and to consider uncertainty as part of their everyday life.
There are both conceptual and managerial implications of this study. On a conceptual level, there are indications that culture affects the adoption and exercise of emotional labour; as a result this can lead to either ‘surface’ or ‘deep’ acting, depending on the employees’ cultural background. On the other hand, luxury hospitality managers should customise their people management policies and procedures in order to attract and retain talented hospitality employees who can understand and exceed customer expectations.