Innovative work behaviors, employee engagement, and surface acting: A delineation of supervisor-employee emotional contagion effects

Tung Ju Wu, Yenchun Jim Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between positive and negative emotional contagion by supervisors and innovative behavior by employees in the marketing department at China Mobile, as well as investigating the mediating roles of work engagement and surface acting in this path. Design/methodology/approach: The authors analyzed emotional contagion on innovative behavior and investigated the mediation effect of work engagement and surface acting, and used structural equation modeling to test the hypotheses. Subjects in this study comprised 263 dyads of supervisors and employees (131 supervisors and 263 employees) in the marketing department at China Mobile. Findings: The results indicated that positive emotions by employees mediated the positive effect of supervisors’ expression of positive emotions about employees’ work engagement; work engagement mediated the positive effect of employees’ positive emotions on their innovative behavior; and employees’ negative emotions mediated and did not significantly mediate the effect of supervisors’ negative emotions on employees’ surface acting and innovative behavior, respectively. Research limitations/implications: This study recommends that future studies examine emotional labor by team members and investigate the types of mechanisms (such as psychological safety and team learning) adopted by such teams to increase their members’ levels of emotional contagion. Practical implications: The authors recommend that enterprises implement courses that are relevant to emotional management for supervisors to enhance their ability to regulate and manage their own emotions. The authors also suggest that organizations offer adequate job resources to employees to inspire work engagement among employees. Originality/value: This study explored the role of work engagement among employees, which serves as a motivational mechanism between positive emotional labor by supervisors and innovative behavior by employees. In addition, it investigated the role of surface acting by employees, which serves as an energetic mechanism between negative emotional labor by supervisors and innovative behavior by employees.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3200-3216
Number of pages17
JournalManagement Decision
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Nov 12
Externally publishedYes



  • Emotional contagion
  • Innovative behaviour
  • Surface acting
  • Work engagement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Management Science and Operations Research

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