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Employees who provide ‘service with a smile’ are more likely to drink heavily

Employees who provide ‘service with a smile’ are more likely to drink heavily because ‘grins fade’

  • People in public jobs who pretend to smile or leave an eye roll are at risk
  • Forced to ‘control’ their emotions at work and then ‘let go’ when they are at home
  • May be worse for people in ‘unpaid’ jobs who ‘pretend’ just for the money

Employees who provide ‘service with a smile’ are more likely to drink heavily, research suggests.

A study found that people in public jobs who often grin or resist an eye-roll are more likely to hit the bottle at the end of the day.

Researchers believe that those who feel they need to ‘control’ their emotions at work – such as nurses, call center workers and baristas – can ‘let go’ at home because the grin of a grin ‘deflates’.

Employees who provide 'service with a smile' are more likely to drink heavily (stock)

Employees who provide ‘service with a smile’ are more likely to drink heavily (stock)

The research was conducted by Pennsylvania State University and the University of Buffalo. It was led by Alicia Grandey, professor of psychology at Penn State.

“Forging and suppressing customer emotions was related to drinking outside of work stress or a negative feeling,” said Professor Grandey.

“It wasn’t just a bad feeling that made them reach for a drink.

“Instead, the more they have to control negative emotions at work, the less they can control their alcohol intake after work.”

Previous studies have found a connection between caregivers and excessive alcohol consumption, but the reason why this happens was unclear.

To unravel the mystery, the researchers analyzed data from the National Survey of Work Stress and Health.

This included viewing the telephone interviews of 1,592 employees in the US. Employees were asked how often they fake or suppressed emotions – known as ‘surface acting’ – and how much they drank after work.

Results – published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology – suggest that employees who interact more with the public drink more than those who don’t.

And those who ‘act superficially’ also drink more, especially if they feel they have no control at work.

“The relationship between superficial acting and drinking after work was stronger for people who are impulsive or who lack personal control over behavior at work,” said Professor Grandey.

“If you are impulsive or are constantly told how to do your work, it can be more difficult to control your emotions throughout the day and when you get home, you don’t have self-control to stop after a drink.”

The results also showed that people in jobs for which they needed customers one-on-one time – such as call center or coffee shop employees – drink more than people who are in training or healthcare.

This may be because, according to Professor Grandey, customer-oriented jobs are usually filled by younger people at an entry level.

These employees may lack self-control and consider “superficial action” to be necessary to make money, she adds.

“In these jobs there is often money attached to showing positive emotions and stopping negative feelings,” said Professor Grandey.

“Money gives you a motivation to wipe out your natural inclinations, but doing it all day can be wear.”

Surface treatment can also have a negative impact on an employee if he feels that his job is not rewarding.

“For example, nurses can strengthen or distort their emotions for obvious reasons,” said Professor Grandey. ‘They try to comfort a patient or build a strong relationship.

“But someone who pretends to be emotions for a customer may not see him again, that may not be worth it and may ultimately be exhausting or more demanding.”

The researchers hope that their research will enable employees to create a healthier working environment.

“Employers may want to consider giving employees a bit more autonomy at work, as if they have some choice at work,” Professor Grandey said.

“And when the emotional effort is clearly linked to financial or relational rewards, the effects aren’t that bad.”


A screening tool that is widely used by medical professionals is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Tests). Developed in collaboration with the World Health Organization, the 10-question test is considered the gold standard to help determine if anyone has problems with alcohol abuse.

The test has been reproduced here with the permission of the WHO.

Answer each question and note the corresponding score to complete it.


0-7: You are within the sensible drinking range and have a low risk of alcohol-related problems.

About 8: Indicate harmful or hazardous drinking.

8-15: Average risk level. If you drink at your current level, you run the risk of developing problems with your health and life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider cutting back (see below for tips).

16-19: Higher risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting costs yourself can be difficult at this level, because you can depend on it, so you may need professional help from your doctor and / or counselor.

20 and older: Possible dependence. Your drinking is already causing problems and you could be dependent. You should definitely consider stopping gradually or at least reducing your drinking. You must seek professional help to determine your dependence level and the safest way to escape from alcohol.

Severe dependence may require medically assisted withdrawal or detox in a hospital or specialist clinic. This is due to the likelihood of severe withdrawal symptoms of alcohol in the first 48 hours that require specialist treatment.