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Consumers Take a Hike When Retail Workers Behave Badly

Disrespectful Behaviors Cause Consumers to Walk   In what may be a sign of the times, insensitive, disrespectful and outright rude behavior by retail workers appears to be on the upswing in America.

But most of us do not report the belligerent worker. Instead, we just take our business elsewhere.

A study discussing this sequence of events is published in the Journal of Service Research.

Approximately one-third of consumers surveyed reported they were treated rudely by an employee on an average of once a month and that these and other such episodes make them less likely to patronize those businesses.

The failure to report “bad” employee behavior may cause an unrelenting cycle of poor employee behavior, a situation that destroys consumer loyalty, limits return business and reduces profits.

Workplace rudeness includes a range of behaviors that may be observed by customers at any point in their contact with the organization.

In the study, researchers reviewed the prevalence of incidents where customers witness an employee behaving uncivilly, the effects on consumers of witnessing such behavior and the subsequent level of anger and desire to hold employees accountable for their actions.

Investigators surveyed 244 consumers and found that uncivil behavior or incivility is widespread. They found consumers recalled incidents involving an uncivil employee in many industries, and particularly in restaurants and retailing.

Uncivil outbursts, as well as rude behavior directed at customers and other employees were in some cases witnessed once a month by approximately one-third of the survey participants.

Unfortunately, managers may not be aware of how frequently their customers witness such behavior. Without reports, managers are unable to address the issue with employees.

“Regardless of the perpetrator or the reason, witnessing incivility scalds customer relationships and depletes the bottom line,” reported co-authors Christine Porath, Debbie MacInnis and Valerie S. Folkes.

Researchers say improved employee training can teach employees how to cope with stress and other demands of a fast-paced retail environment and prevent harmful outbursts.

If poor behavior does occur, experts say the best response is a simple apology, an approach that could be used by both the employee and the supervisor.

Source: Boston College

Consumers Take a Hike When Retail Workers Behave Badly

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Consumers Take a Hike When Retail Workers Behave Badly. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 17, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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