Emotional labor assessments and episodic recall bias in public engagement

Main Article Content

William G. Resh
Cynthia Wilkes
Carmen Mooradian

Keywords

Citizen engagement, Emotional burnout, Pay satisfaction, Emotional labor, Prosocial motivation

Abstract

In a survey of local officials in Los Angeles County we test individual-level job-related assessments as a function of a public employee’s induced recall of discrete citizen engagement and one’s intrinsic prosocial motivation through a randomized survey experiment. We explore whether tangible retentions of public service influence the relationship between self-concepts—such as reported prosociality—and job-related assessments. We find that the relationship between self-reports of prosociality and pay satisfaction are contingent upon those concepts being decontextualized, whereas discrete recall bias appears not to affect emotional burnout. In other words, subjects seem to accept the emotional labor of engagement as part of their jobs. However, contextualizing engagement may make them more cognizant of its unremunerated dimensions; and, positive reinforcement of engagement provides encouragement to further engagement. Our findings make the case that emotional labor involves a skill set that employees implicitly recognize merits remuneration and that reinforcing positive engagement outcomes inspires employee motivation.