Sandy Hershcovis, U of Calgary Haskayne School of Business

Lecture title:

When Customers Behave Badly: Witness Reactions to Server Mistreatment


Sandy Hershcovis, U of Calgary Haskayne School of Business

Speaker(s) Web Pages:

Semester: Winter 2017

Date: Friday, January 13, 2017

Time: 1:30 - 3:00 PM

Venue: Room R1220, Ross School of Business

Additional Notes:

Sandy Hershcovis is an associate professor in Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business. Her research focuses on understanding the social context of workplace mistreatment (e.g., workplace bullying, incivility, and abusive supervision). In particular, she is currently interested in witness reactions to workplace mistreatment with a focus on witness intervention. Her research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


In three experiments, we examined how customers react after witnessing a fellow customer mistreat an employee. In Study 1, we conducted a field experiment that examined real customer reactions to witnessed incivility in the context of a fast-food restaurant. In Study 2, we replicated Study 1 findings in an on-line vignette experiment, and extended it by examining perpetrator outcomes, and anger and empathy as mediators of perpetrator- and target-directed outcomes. In Study 3, we investigated the extent to which employee reactions to incivility influences witness reactions. Drawing on the deontic model of justice, we argued and found that customer incivility towards employees leads witnesses (i.e., other customers) to leave larger tips, to engage in supportive employee-directed behaviors, and to evaluate employees more positively (Studies 1 and 2). We also found that witnesses develop negative treatment intentions and retaliatory intensions towards perpetrators, with anger mediating the perpetrator-focused outcomes and empathy mediating the target-focused outcomes (Study 2). In Study 3, we demonstrate that employees who respond to mistreatment in kind, are significantly less likely to receive the positive outcomes found in Studies 1 and 2, than those who respond civilly.

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