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Motivating Service Employee Creativity: Regulatory Focus And Emotional Labour

Zizhen Geng, Caifeng Li, Kejia Bi, Haiping Zheng, Xia Yang

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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to advance our understanding of the roles that service employees’ responses to high job demands play in service innovation, by examining the effects that service employees’ motivational orientation in self-regulation (regulatory focus) and their emotional labour strategy have on their creativity. Design/methodology/approach By integrating regulatory focus theory and emotion regulation theory, the authors developed a theoretical model to propose the links between promotion and prevention regulatory foci, different emotional labour strategies and frontline employee creativity. The research hypotheses were tested using hierarchical linear model based on data collected from 304 frontline employees and 72 supervisors in 51 restaurants. Findings The results showed that promotion focus was positively related to frontline employee creativity while prevention focus was negatively related to it. In addition, both emotional labour strategies (deep acting and surface acting) mediated the effect of promotion focus on frontline employee creativity. Surface acting mediated the effect of prevention focus on frontline employee creativity. Originality/value This is the first research conducted to explain, from a self-regulatory perspective, the influence that is exerted on service employees’ service innovation by their responses to high job demands. The findings identify the effects that service employees’ promotion focus or prevention focus in self-regulation have on their creativity, and the data unravel the role of emotional labour strategy as the mediating mechanism that explains the influence of regulatory focus on service employee creativity. On the basis of the findings, managerial directions are offered with regard to managing service employees’ regulatory focus and emotional labour, with a view to enhancing the creativity and innovation within a service organisation.