It is a common social joke that nobody really likes going to work but a new study warns that pretending to be happy in the workplace might also make more susceptible to heavy drinking, particularly among those who work with the public. The study compiled data collected through phone interviews with nearly 1,600 workers in the United States
According to researchers from Penn State and the University of Buffalo, people who consistently work with the public and have to keep up a smiling happy face to do so also tend to be heavier drinkers as a result. This includes not only those who work in the food industry—which might not be a surprise—but also professions like education and nursing (which probably are a bit more of a surprise).
A press release of the study’s findings indicates there appears to be a definite link between those who “regularly faked or amplified positive emotions and heavier drinking after work.” This includes gestures like smiling as well as the suppression of negative emotions or responses—like eye rolling.
Essentially, the study warns that those who plaster fake smiles on their faces every single day are more likely to get plastered when they no longer have to wear the disguise.
In addition, study author Alicia Grandey advises, “Faking and suppressing emotions with customers was related to drinking beyond the stress of the job or feeling negatively.”
She adds, “Nurses, for example, may amplify or fake their employees 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.”
Grandey also notes that the data is more complicated than just faking happiness or feeling resentment or guilt. More appropriately, she contends that the study exposed that the more a person has to control or limit their negative emotions (at work), they are less likely they will be able to control their alcohol intake once they clock out for the day.
Finally, the Penn State professor of psychology goes on to advise, “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. And when the emotional effort is clearly linked to financial or relational rewards, the effects aren’t so bad.”