A test of basic assumptions of Affective Events Theory (AET) in call centre work
As call centres are a growing part of the service industry in many countries (Dormann
and Zijlstra, 2003; Holman, 2003; Sprigg, Smith and Jackson, 2003), understanding the
factors that make this work stressful is important. The basic task of call centre agents (or:
customer services representatives, CSRs) is to communicate with customers via integrated
5telephone and computer solutions. Communication between CSRs and customers serves
various purposes, for example, taking orders, conducting consumer research, advertising and
hard selling. Prior studies clearly document that at least three different types of stressors can
be found in this job role (e.g. Deery Iverson and Walsh, 2002; Holman, 2003; Sprigg, Smith
and Jackson, 2003). First, the general organization of work in terms of working in shifts,
10postures, issues associated with computer work and high noise levels in large offices are
sources of strain. Second, several attention consuming demands are linked to the task itself. In
order to do their jobs properly, CSRs have to simultaneously listen and speak to customers,
input data into computers and/or read from a screen. Third, work in call centres is linked with
various forms of emotion work, e.g. the requirement to display continuously positive
15emotions in the interaction with customers or the requirement to handle negative emotions
such as boredom or monotony that often result from the simple, scripted communication
processes (Richter, 2004; Zapf, 2002).Moreover, the experience of emotional dissonance (e.g.
feeling anger but expressing happiness to fulfil the work role) is a specific stressor that is
prominent in call centre work. The volitional presentation of positive emotions and the
20continuous self-control of one's own feelings are very demanding (Brotheridge and Lee,
2003). Volitional emotion regulation consumes energies and, as a consequence, performance
can rapidly decrease (Baumeister et al., 1998). In addition, it was found that emotional
dissonance reduces well-being and can lead to burnout and other health complaints in the long
run (Glomb and Tews, 2004; Lewig and Dollard, 2003; Salovey et al., 2001; Schaufeli and
25Buunk, 2003; Totterdell and Holman, 2003; Zapf, 2002).
In line with this third stream of research, this study focuses on affective experiences of
CSRs at work. We investigate several potential causes of affective experiences at work (e.g.
supervisory support, autonomy, employee welfare) and various consequences that might arise
from these experiences (e.g. job satisfaction, commitment, health complaints). In addressing
30this issue, we use data from a large sample of CSRs working in 85 different call centres in the
UK. We have chosen Affective Events Theory (AET) (Weiss and Cropanzano, 1996) as a
framework for investigating the potential causes and consequences of affective experiences at
work. Although this theory was developed in the mid-1990s, empirical examinations of its
basic propositions are relatively rare (Weiss and Beal, 2005). Our study thus seeks to examine
35whether AET's central predictions can be corroborated in the work of CSRs.
WEGGE, J.; VAN DICK, R.; FISHER, G.; WEST, M.; DAWSON, J. A test of basic assumptions of Affective Events Theory (AET) in call centre work. British Journal of Management, v.17, n.3, p.237-254, September, 2006.
Source: ANPAD/ Set. 2008