Keepin’ it real: Race and authenticity as interactive predictors of service performance appraisals

Open Access
Houston, Lawrence
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
October 25, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Alicia Ann Grandey, Thesis Advisor
  • Impression management; emotional labor; authenticity; performanc
Critical to the service provider’s role is providing “service with a smile” (i.e., impression management). In an attempt to remain compliant with organizational display rules, authenticity is often compromised. That is, employees simply fake a smile and put on enthusiasm. Considering the inconsistency in the effectiveness of “service with a phony smile,” I examined whether the relationship between the authenticity of positive expressions and performance appraisals differed substantially depending on whether the evaluator was African American or European American. I expected that racial differences would exist due to two factors: (1) perceived inauthenticity and (2) value for authenticity. To test my predictions, I obtained reactions to videotaped stimulations that manipulated the authenticity of positive expressions during a hotel check-in encounter. Although racial differences in detection of fake positive expressions and value for authenticity were found in a pilot study of college students, these findings were not replicated in a sample of working adults, suggesting the effects are dependent on age or experience. In contrast to predictions, African Americans and European Americans responded similarly to the authenticity of expressions. African Americans were not more likely than European Americans to attend to nor to weigh inauthentic expressions differently when rating performance. Of importance, however, those who value authenticity reacted more negatively to positive expressions that were perceived as inauthentic. Implications for theory, future research, and practice are discussed.