The Relative Effectiveness of Exercise Breaks on Resistance to Surface Acting Demands

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Virginia Tech


Exercise is important to employees’ health and well-being. Exercise has been found to increase resources, foster resource replenishment, and increase happiness, which may make it effective in supporting employees against the harmful effects of depletion that arise from emotion regulation. Surface acting is a demanding behavior in which employees must fake their emotions to follow organizational display rules, but we know little about how exercise breaks can prevent harmful effects extending from this common job demand in some organizational settings (e.g., customer service). Fifty participants (N = 50) completed a surface acting task in which they listened to audio-recorded negative restaurant reviews and were instructed to respond to the reviews without conveying negative emotions across a 90-minute in-lab experimental session. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four break conditions (no break, a passive break, an exercise break, or a flaw essay break) which occurred halfway through the experimental session. Participants then completed the surface acting task again for 20 minutes. The surface acting task was effective in inducing emotion regulation. Participants who received a break experienced a decrease in depletion after the break, while participants who did not receive a break experienced an increase in depletion. However, no evidence was obtained to suggest that exercise breaks led to a reduction in depletion relative to other experimental conditions, nor a difference in mastery or positive affect. This thesis contributes to research on emotion regulation and exercise break by creating a new surface acting task that can easily be given in experiments. Also, this thesis suggests that organizations should ensure that employees are receiving breaks during worktime to guarantee employees maintain high productivity.



emotion regulation, depletion, surface acting, Exercise, breaks