The objective of the study was to examine how surface acting is used by middle managers to manage the emotional displays of executives in the health industry in Australia. The research was located within a social constructionist epistemology and the theoretical construct used to structure the study was surface acting. Data was generated through qualitative interviews with 49 middle managers. Analysis was undertaken using grounded theory and thematic analysis. The main finding was that unlike male managers, female managers took on the role of managing the emotional displays of senior staff and used surface acting as the means of doing this. They expressed optimism, calmness and empathy even when these were not the emotions that they were actually feeling. It is argued that the propensity for female managers to take on the role of managing the emotional displays of powerful others demonstrates the extent to which gender stereotypes still persist in the health system. The long-term impact of this is often detrimental in terms of female middle managers well-being. This is the first study to look at how surface acting is used by more junior staff to moderate the behaviour of executives.


Emotions, Middle Managers, Surface Acting, Gender Differences

Author Bio(s)

Carlene was formerly Associate Professor of Health Services Management at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Her research explores the experience of difference in organisations and how people use emotions to negotiate their workplace identity. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: cboucher@ozemail.com.au.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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