A.T. Steele Faculty Travel Grant Dr. Heewon Kim, Assistant Professor, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

Promoting voice of "Frontline" Workers: Organizational Justice, Psychological Safety, and Burnout in the South Korea Care Industries

Workers in “care industries” such as customer support, daycare, and nursing are likely to face challenges associated with their lower status, intensive emotional labor, and lack of organizational support. Care workers are highly likely to report perceived lack of voice at work, which in turn leads to burnout and emotional distress. In fact, organizational injustice and problematic policies (e.g., strict regulations of break or lunch time, limited supervisor support, and policies regarding customers’ verbal violence) in care industries have recently received substantial media attention in South Korea due to their impact on employee health and burnout. Enhancing organizational justice and psychological safety can significantly ameliorate stress and burnout, which could promote employee health.

The current study seeks to examine the work-life of “frontline” workers in the South Korean care industries who directly interact with customers on behalf of their organization but are often considered peripheral positions that could be replaceable. Frontline workers in South Korea have suffered from unjust practice in/beyond organizations, emotional labor, and burnout. This study seeks to (a) investigate the antecedents of voice in the context of care industries to show how we can support and embrace care workers’ voice; (b) look into the justice climate and practice in the South Korean care industries to understand frontline workers’ labor conditions; and (c) develop appropriate measures at work that have empirical effects on reducing burnout among emotional labor workers.