Hospitality service employees’ flirting displays: Emotional labor or commercial friendship?

Tali Seger-Guttmann, Hana Medler-Liraz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined the flirtation phenomenon in hospitality services, particularly whether flirting displays comprise an expression of emotional labor or a manifestation of commercial friendship. The study explored two samples. Forty structured in-depth interviews were conducted, 20 with hospitality employees and 20 with customers, eliciting their respective views of flirting during bar interactions. Findings suggest that flirting derives from mixed motives aimed at establishing a special atmosphere. Unlike emotional labor, flirting requires a prior acquaintance with the customer. Managers indirectly encourage hospitality employees to flirt to maintain an appropriate customer feeling. Customers saw flirting as a kind of game employees ‘play’ to increase profits. Flirting comprises an element of hospitality employees’ informal protocol, irrespective of the customer's message. Customers perceived flirting as a blatant violation of the normative commercial friendship. Benefits and costs of flirting to both employee and customer are discussed. Practical implications are offered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-107
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Hospitality Management
StatePublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Bartenders
  • Commercial- friendship
  • Customers
  • Emotional labor
  • Flirting-displays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Strategy and Management


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