Examining temporal precedence between customer mistreatment and customer-directed counterproductive work behavior

Maryana L. Arvan, Yanir Shimon, Shani Pindek, Stacey R. Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Customer-directed counterproductive work behavior or CWB (harmful acts directed toward customers), a significant concern for service organizations, has become a topic of increasing interest in recent years. Although the predominant view in the literature is that customer-directed CWB represents a retaliatory response to customer mistreatment, temporal precedence between the two variables has not yet been adequately established. In the present study, we tested reciprocal effects between customer mistreatment and customer-directed CWB using a 2-wave survey in a sample of call center employees. We found that customer-directed CWB predicted customer mistreatment but customer mistreatment did not predict subsequent customer-directed CWB, suggesting that the relationship is neither reciprocal nor in the direction typically assumed. These findings challenge the prevailing unidirectional view in the literature, suggesting instead that customers mistreat employees who frequently engage in customer-directed CWB. Further, our results indicate that at the between-person level, customer-directed CWB may be driven by factors other than customer mistreatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-291
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Stress Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Psychological Association.


  • Call centers
  • Counterproductive work behavior
  • Customer mistreatment
  • Customer service
  • Customer-directed counterproductive work behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Applied Psychology
  • General Psychology


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