Faking It for the Higher-Ups: Status and Surface Acting in Workplace Meetings

Jane Shumski Thomas, Jessie L. Olien, Joseph A. Allen, Steven G. Rogelberg, John E. Kello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Recent evidence suggests that surface acting occurs in workplace meetings. Even in light of these findings, it remains unknown why employees would choose to surface act in meetings with their colleagues and supervisors, and how this form of emotion regulation affects employees in the short term. A sample of working adults were asked to report their levels of surface acting during multiple workplace meetings. Results indicate that employees engage in surface acting during meetings, and that their surface acting is positively related to the presence of higher status attendees in these meetings. In addition, surface acting during meetings is negatively related to perceptions of both meeting psychological safety and meeting effectiveness. We also highlight the important role of one’s job level as a moderating condition when examining the relationship between surface acting and perceived meeting effectiveness. Our results suggest that individuals who are higher up in an organization’s hierarchy may perceive meetings as less effective when they surface act when compared with individuals who are in lower levels of the organization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-100
Number of pages29
JournalGroup and Organization Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • hierarchical status
  • meetings
  • surface acting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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