Free to be you and me: a climate of authenticity alleviates burnout from emotional labor

J Occup Health Psychol. 2012 Jan;17(1):1-14. doi: 10.1037/a0025102. Epub 2011 Aug 29.


Given the emotional nature of health care, patients and their families may express anger and mistreat their health care providers; in addition, those providers are expected to manage their own emotions when providing care--two interpersonal stressors that are linked to job burnout. Integrating conservation of resources (Hobfoll, 2002) and ego depletion (Muraven & Baumeister, 2000) theories, we propose that this creates a resource loss spiral that can be slowed by the presence of a "climate of authenticity" among one's coworkers. We describe this climate and how it differs from other work climates. We then propose that a work unit with a climate of authenticity should provide a self-regulatory break from emotional labor with patients, thus replenishing resources and buffering against strain from emotional labor. We tested this multilevel prediction by surveying 359 health care providers nested within 48 work units at a large, metropolitan hospital. We find that medical workers experiencing more mistreatment by patients are more likely to be managing emotions with patients, and this response further contributes to the employees' job-related burnout. As predicted, managing emotions with patients was unrelated to burnout for workers in a unit with a climate of authenticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / etiology
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Expressed Emotion
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Urban / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Organizational Culture
  • Personnel, Hospital / psychology*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires