How service with a smile could be fatal

SERVICE with a smile literally could be the death of workers who deal with the public every day.

Researchers have found that people who plaster a fake smile on their faces and suppress the urge to roll their eyes in front of customers are more likely to turn to heavy drinking.

The study from Penn State University and the University of Buffalo found a link between excessive alcohol consumption and workers who routinely amplified positive emotions. The researchers looked at the habits of workers in the food service industry, nurses and teachers.

Penn State professor of psychology Alicia Grandey says the results suggest that employers may want to reconsider "service with a smile" policies. The findings have been published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

"Faking and suppressing emotions with customers was related to drinking beyond the stress of the job or feeling negatively," Prof Grandey said.

"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."

Service with a smile may actually be the death of workers in service industry. Cafe owner Karen Puryicky from Espresso Bonsai on Chevron Island keeps smiling through the busy times. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Service with a smile may actually be the death of workers in service industry. Cafe owner Karen Puryicky from Espresso Bonsai on Chevron Island keeps smiling through the busy times. Picture: Nigel Hallett

The study found that people who interacted with the public in their jobs were overall more likely to drink more after work.

But the link with drinking was stronger in jobs where employees have one-time service encounters with customers, like a call centre or coffee shop, rather than relationships, like health care or education.

"Nurses, for example, may amplify or fake their emotions for clear reasons," Prof Grandey said. "They are 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."

The authors suggest employers may be able to use these insights to create healthier workplace environments.

"Employers may want to consider allowing employees to have a little more autonomy at work, like they have some kind of choice on the job," she said.

Gold Coast cafe owner Karen Puryicky from Espresso Bonsai on Chevron Island believes it is important to always keep smiling at work.

"Even when I am really tired and don't feel like it I try to be happy," she said.