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The Impact of Frontline Employees' Work-Family Conflict on Customer Satisfaction: The Mediating Role of Exhaustion and Emotional Displays

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Cornell Hospitality Quarterly

Published online on


When hotel employees feel stress from conflicts between work and family, some of the resulting exhaustion is inevitably reflected in their interactions with customers. This study paired two hundred hotel employees and customers in an analysis of customer satisfaction as it relates to employees’ service behavior, which is affected by the emotional, mental, and physical toll of work–family conflict. Employees’ exhaustion and emotional displays contain a mixed set of effects on customer satisfaction. The findings reveal that employees’ family interfering with work is linked to physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, while work interfering with family does not have the same effect. Higher levels of physical exhaustion increased the likelihood that employees would display faked positive emotions and simultaneously suppress negative emotions. Customers could spot the fakery, but they judged that the fake positive emotions enhanced the employees’ role performance. At the same time, however, customer satisfaction was diminished when employees’ emotional displays were obviously not genuine. Thus, hotel managers may be interested in determining whether family issues are impinging on employees’ work responsibilities, given that the outcome may be reduced customer satisfaction.