Button Menu

Sharmin Tunguz

Associate Professor of Psychology


A fundamental aspect of our lives is the necessity, need, and desire to interact with other people. Nothing fascinates me more than learning about the hidden and not-so-hidden motivations that govern human behavior. As a child I devoured murder/mystery books by Agatha Christie, whose intuitive understanding of human nature rang so true. Later as an adult I migrated to non-fiction works that analyzed patterns of behavior based on factors such as education, politics, religion, and economics. Even guilty pleasures such as celebrity gossip or reality TV are fascinating to an extent because they spotlight human beings at their complicated best and worst. Psychology represents that branch of knowledge that seeks to uncover “truths” about behavior in a systematic way, and for this reason I took a class in it the first chance I got in college. I believe prediction is a powerful practical tool. Being able to forecast actions, understand why a person is the way they are, or even understand what propels us as individuals toward one path versus another, arms us with the ability to exercise some control over our lives. Whether professionally or personally, Psychology plays a huge role in allowing us to successfully navigate the tides of interpersonal relationships. I cannot imagine a more relevant field to study and immerse myself in than Psychology.

my Research Interests

As an I/O psychologist, I am a keen observer of how individuals manage their feelings and behaviors in the workplace, specifically in customer-service settings. My work looks at the relationship between organizational justice and emotional labor – the effort to regulate one’s emotions at work – and has generally found that workplace injustice wrecks havoc on one’s ability to manage one’s emotions. Typical reactions to undeserved customer rudeness, for instance, include anger and even guilt, prompting service interactions to become strained and imbued with emotional labor.

In a related vein, I have looked at the factors that enhance both employee and customer satisfaction. My research shows that when employees are schooled in effective training methods, customer injustice exacts less of an emotional toll on otherwise hapless workers. Furthermore, customer satisfaction is also enhanced when employees are trained to more effectively manage their emotions. An interesting discovery, however, that emerged from a set of field studies that my students and I conducted suggests that employee and customer satisfaction might actually have more to do with individuals’ internal dispositions than with outward organizational practices.

The bottom line? I/O psychology reflects the tried and tested nature/nurture divide with the same level of ferocity seen in other, more basic, areas of psychology. It suggests that within customer service, at least, selection of the right employees is as important as training them in the right practices… and interacting with the right customers.

Selected Publications & Presentations

(*DePauw student)

Tunguz, S., Riggs, L.E., & Searles, J. A. (forthcoming). What predicts customer   satisfaction and tips? Advances in Psychology. Hauppague, NY: Nova Science Publishers.


Tunguz, S. (2014). In the eye of the beholder: Emotional labor in academia varies with tenure and gender. Studies in Higher Education. doi     10.1080/03075079.2014.914919


Tunguz, S. (2013). Emotional labor: Clarifying a confusing construct. In C. Mohiyeddini, M. Eysenck, & S. Bauer (Eds.),Handbook of Psychology of Emotions: Recent Theoretical Perspectives and Novel Empirical Findings (pp. 63-86). Hauppague, NY: Nova Science Publishers.


Tunguz, S., & Carnevale, P. J. (2011). Social context effects in the display of
emotion: Accountability in a simulated organization.  Journal of Applied Social
Psychology, 41,


Spencer, S., & Rupp, D. E.  (2009). Angry, guilty and conflicted: Injustice toward coworkers heightens emotional labor through cognitive and emotional mechanisms.  Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 429-444.


Rupp, D. E., & Spencer, S. (2006). When customers lash out: The effects of
interactional justice on emotional labor and the mediating role of discrete emotions.  Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 971-978.


Tunguz, S., & *Riggs, L. E. (2012). Customer satisfaction links between service
quality and future behavioral intentions. Poster session presented at the
23rd Annual Convention for the Association for Psychological Science, Chicago, IL.


Tunguz, S., Lee, W. C., Wu, C., & Diamond, J. A. (2011). Guiding undergraduates to I-O: Attracting talent and providing opportunities. Panel discussion presented at the 26th Annual Conference for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Chicago, Illinois.


Tunguz, S., *Riggs, L. E., & *Searles, J. A. (2011). Employee displays and customer disposition: Predicting customer satisfaction and tips. Poster session presented at the 26th Annual Conference for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Chicago, Illinois.


*Woods, W. K., & Tunguz, S. (2010, May). Organizational and individual differences affect customer satisfaction and tips. Poster session presented at the 22nd Annual Convention for the Association for Psychological Science, Boston, Massachusetts.


McCance, A. S., & Tunguz, S. (2010, April). Emotional regulation training reaps
psychological and organizational benefits. In P. Grabarek (Chair), Justice and
individual differences: New research findings, directions, and questions.
Symposium conducted at the 25th Annual Conference for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Atlanta, Georgia.