Behind the Happiness Mask

Authored by: Lisa Linzbach , Ilona Suojanen

The Routledge Companion to Happiness at Work

Print publication date:  October  2020
Online publication date:  October  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367266554
eBook ISBN: 9780429294426
Adobe ISBN:


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The importance of happiness at work has received increasing recognition over recent years. Many companies invest in well-being initiatives to boost their employees’ happiness and commitment. The resulting benefits, such as higher productivity and lower turnover intentions, are widely studied. However, there are also concerns that these initiatives might pressure employees to act happier than they feel by wearing a mask to fulfill expectations of happiness as a professional requirement. While this phenomenon is already frequently investigated in customer interactions, emotion regulation inside of organizations represents a new dimension that requires attention. This chapter explores the pressure to display happiness at work by drawing on two qualitative studies on young professionals in the UK and the Netherlands. We will examine what the happiness mask can look like in terms of behavioral characteristics and discuss elements that drive employees to act happier than they actually feel. Lastly, this chapter considers under which circumstances such a mask can have positive effects or pose risks, and, effectively, what companies can do to fuel a climate of happiness while avoiding the issue of employees feeling pressured to fake happiness.

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