Study Shows That Faking a Smile for Customers Makes Workers Drink More


If you’ve ever had a job where you had to deal with customers, this makes PERFECT SENSE. You see a customer walk in, you put on your most painful forced smile, and then after work, you drink booze.

Researchers from Penn State University and the University of Buffalo recently discovered that faking smiles to please customers can be bad for the health of workers. The data from the research showed that people who work with the public (food service, retail, teachers, nurses, etc.) and who both regularly fake positive emotions (like smiling when they don’t mean it) and repress negative emotions (like the urge to roll their eyes) drink more alcohol after they get off work than people who don’t work directly with the public.

Penn State professor of psychology Alicia Grandey said about the results of the study,

“Faking and suppressing emotions with customers was related to drinking beyond the stress of the job or feeling negatively. It wasn’t just feeling badly that makes them reach for a drink. Instead, the more they have to control negative emotions at work, the less they are able to control their alcohol intake after work.”

And if you work in the service industry or know people who do, you know (and I know) that a lot of them do like to drink more than just a couple when their shift ends. Grandey hypothesizes that by faking or suppressing emotions, service industry workers may be using too much self-control, what she calls “surface acting.” And when they’re not at work, they don’t exercise self-control to regulate their alcohol intake.

Grandey said,

“Smiling as part of your job sounds like a really positive thing, but doing it all day can be draining. In these jobs, there’s also often money tied to showing positive emotions and holding back negative feelings. Money gives you a motivation to override your natural tendencies, but doing it all day can be wearing.”

The researchers analyzed data from 1,592 workers in the United States to draw their conclusions. Grandey also said that workers who have one-time interactions with customers, such as restaurants or call centers, tend to drink more than those who see the same people regularly, like teachers or health care professionals.

Grandey explained,

‘”Nurses, for example, may amplify or fake their emotions for clear reasons. They’re trying to comfort a patient or build a strong relationship. But someone who is faking emotions for a customer they may never see again, that may not be as rewarding, and may ultimately be more draining or demanding.”

What do you think? Share your reactions in the comments!