Pasting On A Fake Smile At Work Could Turn You Into An Alcoholic, Study Says

While no one really wants to deal with demanding customers at work, you sorta have to buck up and get on with it. After all, you have to make money to support yourself and potentially a family and besides, it’s not all that bad when one of your favorite colleagues is there to snark with, right? Still, chances are you’ve had to put on a fake smile once or twice (or every day), and that habit could have a terrible effect on your health.

Fake smiles lead to heavier drinking. According to a new study out of the University of Buffalo and Penn State, those who worked in jobs in which they interacted with the public and were forced to put on a happy face ended up drinking way more alcohol when they weren’t at work.

The more your bosses are on your case, the worse your off-hours alcohol consumption. “The relationship between surface acting and drinking after work was stronger for people who are impulsive or who lack personal control over behavior at work,” said Alicia Grandey, professor of psychology at Penn State. “If you’re impulsive or constantly told how to do your job, it may be harder to rein in your emotions all day, and when you get home, you don’t have that self-control to stop after one drink.”

Everyone needs to let loose. In the study of over 3,000 people, it was determined that having to rein in your emotions during your shift and act like everything is totally fine makes you less likely to be able to control your alcohol intake once you clock out for the day.

Maybe “service with a smile” isn’t a good business policy. At least that’s what Grandey thinks after seeing the results of the study. “Faking and suppressing emotions with customers was related to drinking beyond the stress of the job or feeling negatively,” she said in a statement. “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 workers have a history of increased drinking. Grandey added that it’s always been known that people who work with the general public are more likely to drink, it just took this study to figure out why that might be.

Faking a smile isn’t easy and it’s definitely not fun. “Smiling as part of your job sounds like a really positive thing, but doing it all day can be draining,” Grandey explained. “In these jobs, there’s also often money tied to showing positive emotions and holding back negative feelings. Money gives you a motivation to override your natural tendencies, but doing it all day can be wearing.”

People in more rewarding professions are less likely to drink to excess. “Nurses, for example, may amplify or fake their emotions for clear reasons,” Grandey added. “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.”

The takeaway from this? Customer service jobs suck and are super stressful. The more employers realize this and do more to ensure that employees are taken care of and happy in these important positions, the better off everyone will be.

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