Abuse from Organizational Outsiders: Customer Aggression and Incivility

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Customer mistreatment is a daily experience of service employees which has more severe outcomes than co-worker or supervisor mistreatment. The chapter reviews the causes and outcomes of aggressive customer behaviours. Research indicates that customer aggression is a common response to dissatisfaction with service quality which stimulates anger and is reinforced by customers’ superior status. Frequent exposure to customer mistreatment results in reduced service performance, employee engagement in emotion regulation, distress and withdrawal. Social support provided to employees as well as employee trait affectivity and expectations regarding customer behaviours moderate the impact of mistreatment on employee reactions. Recommended organizational practices to prevent customer mistreatment include using promotional messages to persuade consumers to unlearn patterns of misconduct and developing a zero-tolerance policy towards abusive customers. Organizations can cope with customer mistreatment by practices designed to improve employees’ ability to manage interactions with abusive customers, providing opportunities for employees to share their experiences with colleagues and encouraging them to take work breaks following difficult encounters. Recommended future research directions address the application of novel theoretical approaches to the study of employees’ experience of customer mistreatment, identify specific traits that enhance employee resilience to customer mistreatment, explore how customer mistreatment affects employees outside the workplace, study customer cyber abuse, systematically explore which managerial activities effectively reduce customer mistreatment and conduct cross-cultural research to explore the impact of cultural dimensions on customer inclination to mistreat employees.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSpecial topics and particular occupations, professions and sectors. Handbooks of Workplace Bullying, Emotional Abuse and Harassment
EditorsP. D'Cruz, E. Noronha , L. Keashly , S. Tye-Williams
PublisherSpringer Singapore
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-10-5154-8
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameHandbooks of Workplace Bullying, Emotional Abuse and Harassment
ISSN (Print)2662-3242
ISSN (Electronic)2662-3250


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