Beyond Tit-for-Tat: Theorizing Divergent Employee Reactions to Customer Mistreatment

Rajiv K. Amarnani, Prashant Bordia, Simon Lloyd D. Restubog

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Customer mistreatment is a ubiquitous and pernicious form of interpersonal mistreatment leveled by customers against employees. Service workers’ reactions to customer mistreatment have been traditionally viewed as tit-for-tat reactions in which service workers respond to customers’ aggression with retaliation in kind. However, this tit-for-tat account does not capture the broad range of possible service worker responses to customer misbehavior. We build the case for self-esteem threat as an overarching framework for divergent employee reactions to customer mistreatment, and explain how service workers’ behavioral reactions and emotional labor may systematically vary according to where service workers stake their self-esteem—in performance, in others’ approval, or in status—using contingencies of self-worth theory. Other features of the self-concept are identified as boundary conditions of the process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)687-717
Number of pages31
JournalGroup and Organization Management
Volume44
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Self Concept
Aggression
Theorizing
Employees
Mistreatment
Service workers
Workers

Keywords

  • contingencies of self-worth
  • customer mistreatment
  • incivility
  • self-concept
  • self-esteem threat
  • service work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

Cite this

Beyond Tit-for-Tat : Theorizing Divergent Employee Reactions to Customer Mistreatment. / Amarnani, Rajiv K.; Bordia, Prashant; Restubog, Simon Lloyd D.

In: Group and Organization Management, Vol. 44, No. 4, 01.08.2019, p. 687-717.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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