Witnessing uncivil behavior

Witnessing uncivil behavior
In the era when a cell phone video can go viral on social media, it’s critical for employees to understand the potential audience watching their interactions with customers. Credit: WSU

Suppose you're at a nice restaurant celebrating your anniversary. When a customer at a nearby table complains that it's taking too long to get his meal, you and your spouse overhear the server's brusque response. Would the server's behavior prompt you to leave a smaller tip for your own meal?

When people witness poor service, studies indicate they want to seek revenge against the employee, even though they weren't directly affected.

New research out of Washington State University expands on the previous studies, looking at what happens when a manager steps in with an apology and how tips are affected.

A manager's intervention can help reduce witnesses' hostility toward the company or brand, reestablishing trust in the firm and preventing the loss of future business, the WSU study found. However, antagonism toward the individual employee remained. Bystanders still punished the employee through lower tips, according to the research.

Social media expands potential audience

The study has important takeaways, said Ismail Karabas, an assistant professor of marketing at Murray State University who worked on the research for his WSU doctoral dissertation.

"Employees should be aware that their audience is much larger than the customer they're focused on," Karabas said. "A is likely to result in lower tips—not only from the disgruntled customer, but from others who witnessed the exchange."

In the era when a can go viral on social media, it's critical for employees to understand the potential audience watching their interactions with customers, Karabas said.

"When I present this research, I often use the 2017 example of the passenger being dragged off the overbooked United Airlines flight," he said. "The bystanders aren't just the people who were physically present, but all the people who can watch the video online. With the growth in , our research becomes much more critical to companies and front-line employees."

Fairness important to customers' perceptions

Fairness is an important aspect of -customer interactions, said Jeff Joireman, professor of marketing at WSU's Carson College of Business. Customers' to service often hinges on whether they think they or others were treated fairly, he said.

But the WSU research also showed that customers didn't differentiate between a neutral response to a complaint and a positive response. In the scenario where the customer complained about slow service, researchers tested several responses. Some servers apologized while promising to fix the problem, while others just said they'd fix it. Customers reacted well in both instances.

"You don't have to bend over backwards to appease customers—you only have to correct the problem," according to Joireman, who said that's an important finding to help prevent burnout in front-line employees.

Explore further

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More information: Ismail Karabas et al, Why and when witnessing uncivil behavior leads observers to punish frontline employees and leave the firm, International Journal of Hospitality Management (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhm.2019.03.019
Citation: Witnessing uncivil behavior (2019, June 18) retrieved 20 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-06-witnessing-uncivil-behavior.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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User comments

Jun 18, 2019
Why do people think that a tip is necessary at the restaurant but not the gas station?

Jun 19, 2019
Why do people think that a tip is necessary at the restaurant but not the gas station?

Because in the US at least, while the federal minimum wage is currently $7.25/hour, businesses are only required to pay wait staff $2.13/hour, the expectation being that they will be able to cover the difference with their tips. Unless customers tip them, they won't be able to make a living.

As for workers like baristas, bartenders, bell hops, and others who constantly have their hands out with the expectation of a tip it is only custom and entitlement which brings about demand for the practice. In my small town grocery store, box boys (and girls) have always carried groceries out to your car and placed them in your trunk or back seat for you. One summer I drove a cousin of mine from back east to the store so she could buy a few bags of food for a get-together she had organized. After the guy put the $50 or so of food in the trunk (boot), she handed him $10 and he was shocked.

Jun 19, 2019
Business are allowed to pay staff what they will to get competent staff. An ICKY teenager 'server' will get no tip. Looking at the illustration currently attached to this article, unshaven will get a minimal tip.

A professional waiter will get a huge tip, easily beyond 20% because HE has learned to enhance the dinner and the evening.

Comes to mind, IIRC David at the Awahnee in Yosemite NP nine months ago. We will seek him out next September.

Jun 21, 2019
The restaurant scheme where waiters *have to* rely on tips is only done in some states, others have banned the practice and require the minimum wage to be paid.

It is my understanding that in states where the low wage is implemented a mandatory tip of 10% is included in the bill. I think California requires the minimum wage to be paid to all workers.

In Australia the minimum wage is 38-hour week, or $18.93 per hour or $719.20 per 38 hour week.

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