Rude customers linked to workers' shopping binges

July 19, 2017, Michigan State University
'Stress from customers spills over to spoil people's experiences outside of work,' Michigan State University's Russell Johnson says of his new study in the Academy of Management Journal. Credit: Michigan State University

Service workers who face verbal abuse from customers during the workday are more likely to go on unnecessary shopping sprees in the evening, indicates new research co-authored by a Michigan State University business expert.

The study of 94 call-center workers at a large bank in China found that customer mistreatment (e.g., customers who yelled, argued, swore, etc.) put the employees in a after work. This, in turn, led to damaging thoughts (ruminating about the mistreatment) and behaviors (impulse shopping).

"Thus, stress from customers spills over to spoil people's experiences outside of work," said Russell Johnson, MSU associate professor of management.

The findings from Johnson and colleagues—who surveyed employees multiple times per day for 15 consecutive workdays—are published online in the Academy of Management Journal.

The researchers also tested two interventions and found a potential solution to the problem.

On days when workers who thought about a recent incident where they helped customers (a "recall of prosocial action intervention") or thought about an interaction from the customer's viewpoint (a "perspective-taking ") before starting work, it reduced their perceptions of mistreatment, reduced their negative mood and led to less rumination and impulse shopping.

Becoming more prosocial shifts attention away from the self and reduces impulsive and individualistic acts, according to the study.

"These recall and perspective-taking interventions are quick and easy exercises that -service employees can do prior to beginning the workday to reduce the stress from rude customers," Johnson said.

Explore further: Eating your feelings? The link between job stress, junk food and sleep

Related Stories

Bad bosses inspire employees to sabotage customers

October 6, 2015

When faced with rude customers, people in the service sector sometimes exact revenge – but they're much more likely to do so if their boss mistreats them as well, according to a new study by Professor Daniel Skarlicki and ...

The dark side of helping coworkers

May 10, 2017

If you show up at work tired, you may want to focus strictly on your own tasks. New research suggests helping coworkers in the morning can lead to mental exhaustion and self-serving behavior in the afternoon that ultimately ...

How incivility spreads in the workplace

August 10, 2016

Condescending comments, put-downs and sarcasm have become commonplace in the politically charged workplace, and a new study co-authored by a Michigan State University business scholar shows how this incivility may be spreading.

Recommended for you

Chinese Cretaceous fossil highlights avian evolution

September 24, 2018

A newly identified extinct bird species from a 127 million-year-old fossil deposit in northeastern China provides new information about avian development during the early evolution of flight.

Ancient mice discovered by climate cavers

September 24, 2018

The fossils of two extinct mice species have been discovered in caves in tropical Queensland by University of Queensland scientists tracking environment changes.

The first predators and their self-repairing teeth

September 24, 2018

The earliest predators appeared on Earth 480 million years ago—and they even had teeth capable of repairing themselves. A team of palaeontologists led by Bryan Shirley and Madleen Grohganz from the Chair for Palaeoenviromental ...

Fat from 558 million years ago reveals earliest known animal

September 20, 2018

Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) and overseas have discovered molecules of fat in an ancient fossil to reveal the earliest confirmed animal in the geological record that lived on Earth 558 million ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.