Exploring the relationship between burnout, emotional labour and emotional intelligence : a study on call centre representatives

Furnell, Bernadette Anne (2008-03)

Thesis (MComm)--Stellenbosch University, 2008.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to explore the relationships between burnout, emotional labour (EL) and emotional intelligence (EI) in the call centre industry and to determine whether EI played a moderating role in the relationship between EL and burnout. A nonexperimental research design (i.e. exploratory survey study) was used to explore the relationships between the three constructs. The constructs were defined as follows: burnout, as a syndrome consisting of three negative response patterns which include: emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and diminished personal accomplishment (Maslach, Jackson & Leiter, 1996); EI, as the capacity to effectively perceive, express, understand and manage emotions in a professional and effective manner at work (Palmer & Stough, 2001); and EL, as the process where employees regulate their emotional display in an attempt to meet organisationally-based expectations specific to their roles (Brotheridge & Lee, 2003). A convenience sample of 250 employees was drawn from two inbound customer care call centres of a leading South African telecommunications company that was approached to participate in the research. The Maslach Burnout Inventory – General Survey (Maslach et al., 1996), the Emotional Labour Scale (Brotheridge & Lee, 2003) and the Swinburne University Emotional Intelligence Test (Palmer & Stough, 2001) were administered. Two hundred and ten (210) respondents completed and returned the questionnaires. The results showed that surface acting (a dimension of EL) was positively related to and predicted emotional exhaustion (i.e. increased burnout). Conversely, deep acting (a dimension of EL) was related to an increase in personal accomplishment scores (i.e. decreased burnout). As hypothesised, EI was found to relate negatively to surface acting and positively to deep acting and emerged as a strong predictor of deep acting, explaining 20% of the variance in deep acing scores. These results revealed that those individuals higher in EI were more likely to engage more often in deep acting techniques, which could likely influence their levels of burnout. Furthermore, EI was related to an increase in personal accomplishment (i.e. decreased burnout) and emotional management (a dimension of EI) emerged as the strongest predictor of increased personal accomplishment. Whilst EI did not emerge as a moderator in the relationship between EL and burnout, support was found for the value of developing EI interventions that foster deep acting techniques in the call centre environment. Tenure (length of service) was found to be positively related to emotional exhaustion and negatively related to deep acting, indicating that the implementation of EI interventions in call centres should not be restricted to the induction phase of an employee’s career but continue throughout their working lives. The limitations of the study and recommendations for future research were discussed.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die doel van hierdie studie was om die verwantskap tussen uitbranding, emosionele arbeid (EA) en emosionele intelligensie (EI) in die inbelsentrum bedryf te ondersoek en om te bepaal of EI ‘n modererende effek op die EA en uitbranding verwantskap het. Daar is gebruik gemaak van ‘n nie-eksperimentele navorsingsontwerp (nl. ‘n verkennende opnamestudie) ten einde die verband tussen die drie konstrukte en hul sub-dimensies te ondersoek. Die konstrukte is soos volg gedefinieer: uitbranding, as ‘n sindroom bestaande uit drie negatiewe respons komponente: emosionele uitputting, depersonalisasie en verminderde gevoel van persoonlike bekwaamheid (Maslach, Jackson & Leiter, 1996); EI, as die individu se kapasiteit om emosies binne die werksomgewing effektief waar te neem, uit te druk, te verstaan en op ‘n professionele en effektiewe wyse te bestuur (Palmer & Stough, 2001); en EA, as die proses waardeur werknemers hulle eksterne, sigbare emosies reguleer in ‘n poging om aan die verwagte vertoon reëls van hul organisasie (spesifiek tot hulle werksrol) te voldoen (Brotheridge & Lee, 2003). ‘n Gerieflikheidsteekproef van 250 werknemers verbonde aan twee inbelkliëntedienssentrums van ‘n toonaangewende Suid Afrikaanse telekommunikasie maatskappy was genader om aan die navorsing deel te neem. Die respondente het drie vraelyste voltooi: die Maslach Uitbrandingsvraelys – Algemene Opname (Maslach Burnout Inventory – General Survey) (Maslach et al., 1996); die Emosionele Arbeid Skaal (Emotional Labour Scale) (Brotheridge & Lee, 2003); en die Swinburne Universiteit Emosionele Intelligensie Toets (Swinburne University Emotional Intelligence Test) (Palmer & Stough, 2001). Twee honderd en tien (210) respondente het die vraelyste voltooi en terugbesorg aan die navorser. Die bevindinge toon dat oppervlakkige toneelspel (“surface acting”) (‘n dimensie van EA) ‘n positiewe verwantskap het met emosionele uitputting, asook om dit te voorspel (nl. vermeerderde uitbranding). Omgekeerd, was diep toneelspel (“deep acting”) (‘n dimensie van EA) verwant aan ‘n vermeerdering in persoonlike bekwaamheid (nl. verminderde uitbranding). EI het ‘n negatiewe verwantskap met oppervlakkige toneelspel maar ‘n positiewe verwantskap met diep toneelspel getoon, en het 20% van die variansie in diep toneelspel voorspel. Die resultate wys daarop dat mense met hoër EI meer waarskynlik diep toneelspel tegnieke sal gebruik, wat uitbranding vlakke sal beinvloed. Verder was EI verwant aan ‘n vermeerdering in persoonlike bekwaamheid (nl. verminderde uitbranding). Emosionele bestuur (‘n dimensie van EI) het die grootste variansie in persoonlike bekwaamheid voorspel. Die resultate toon dat EI nie ‘n moderator in die verwantskap tusseen EA en uitbranding is nie. Ondanks hierdie bevinding, was daar genoeg bewyse gevind vir die waarde van die ontwikkeling van EI intervensies (wat diep toneelspel tegnieke bevorder) in die inbelsentrum bedryf. Dienstyd was positief verwant aan emosionele uitputting en negatief verwant aan diep toneelspel. Die resultate bewys dat EI intervensies in inbelsentrums nie net in die begin van ‘n werknemer se loopbaan geïmplementeer moet word nie, maar deur die hele loopbaan moet voortduur. Die beperkinge van die studie en voorstelle vir toekomstige navorsing is bespreek.

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