It’s Unfair: Why Customers Who Merely Observe an Uncivil Employee Abandon the Company

53 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2015

See all articles by Christine Porath

Christine Porath

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business; Georgetown University - Department of Management

Deborah J. MacInnis

University of Southern California - Marketing Department

Valerie Folkes

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Date Written: February 23, 2011

Abstract

Employees sometimes engage in uncivil behavior in the workplace. We ask (1) How commonly do customers witness an employee behaving uncivilly? (2) What negative effects does customers’ witnessing of an employee’s uncivil behavior have on customers and firms? (3) Why do these effects occur? The results of three studies suggest that it is not uncommon for customers to witness an employee behaving in an uncivil manner. It occurs in many industries. Moreover, witnessing such behavior makes customers angry and creates desires to get back at the uncivil perpetrator and the firm. These effects occur even when a manager’s uncivil comment is aimed at correcting a subordinate’s job-related offense and even when it is delivered offstage, outside of the customer servicescape. Finally, we demonstrate that these effects are driven by customers’ concerns about deontic injustice from incivility (reaction to a wrongful misconduct that violates fairness standards). These results contribute to the literature on workplace incivility and customer reactions to service encounters as well as the burgeoning literature on customer anger and revenge. We suggest that organizations invest in training programs focusing on employee civility. Managers should receive training in coaching to mitigate against the detrimental effects of incivility.

Keywords: incivility, customer encounters, anger, employee relationships, repurchase intentions, deontic justice

Suggested Citation

Porath, Christine and MacInnis, Deborah J. and Folkes, Valerie, It’s Unfair: Why Customers Who Merely Observe an Uncivil Employee Abandon the Company (February 23, 2011). Marshall School of Business Working Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1768039 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1768039

Christine Porath (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Georgetown University - Department of Management

3700 O Street, NW
Washington, NY 20057
United States

Deborah J. MacInnis

University of Southern California - Marketing Department ( email )

Hoffman Hall 701
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1427
United States

Valerie Folkes

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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