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Drivers of employee retaliation towards customer incivil behavior

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Saurabh BhattacharyaORCiD


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Customer dysfunctional behavior such as incivility and aggression are receiving major attention in the marketing literature, especially when the mistreatment of frontline employees by customers have increased manifold in recent years. Though the impact of such incivil or aggressive behavior on employees’ behavioral outcomes such as increased stress levels, reduced job satisfaction, and turnover intention has been researched, a critical behavioral outcome from the marketing perspective, i.e. frontline employees’ retaliation behavior towards dysfunctional customers has received scant attention. Employee dysfunctional behavior towards customers, even when the latter is being incivil, is likely to lower customer service and increase customer turnover, thus resulting in lower firm performance. Thus, it becomes imperative to explore the underlying psychological process, which makes a frontline employee retaliating back to the customer. In this study, a boundary conditioned framework was developed in which the relationship between customer incivility and employee retaliation behavior was mediated by the level of employee disgust. Furthermore, the relationship between customer uncivil behavior and employee disgust was moderated by employees’ emotional intelligence. The ethnic dissimilarity of the customer with that of the focal frontline employee moderated the relationship between employee disgust and employee retaliation. Two scenario-based experiments with frontline employees in the banking (Study 1, n= 220) and restaurant sector (Study 2, n= 308) of the UK were conducted to test the framework. Results of the moderated mediation analysis establish empirical support for our hypotheses. Managerial implications are also discussed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Agnihotri A, Bhattacharya S

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 40th Annual ISMS Marketing Science Conference

Year of Conference: 2018

Print publication date: 13/09/2018

Online publication date: 13/09/2018

Acceptance date: 13/04/2018

Publisher: Society of Marketing Science