Work Stress Can Lead to Shopping Binges

Michigan State University investigators found that when service workers face verbal abuse from customers during the workday, they are more likely to go on unnecessary shopping sprees in the evening.

Investigators studied 94 call-center workers at a large bank in China and discovered that customer mistreatment (e.g., customers who yelled, argued, swore, etc.) put the employees in a bad mood after work.

This, in turn, led to damaging thoughts (ruminating or repeatedly and excessively worrying about the mistreatment) and behaviors (impulse shopping).

“Thus, stress from customers spills over to spoil people’s experiences outside of work,” said Dr. Russell Johnson, a Michigan State University associate professor of management.

The findings from Johnson and colleagues, who surveyed employees multiple times per day for 15 consecutive workdays, appear online in the Academy of Management Journal.

In the study, the researchers explored a variety of interventions and found simple solutions to the problem.

The first approach encouraged workers to think about a recent incident where they helped customers (a “recall of prosocial action intervention”) before starting work.

Another effective strategy, also performed before going to work, was for the worker to think about an interaction from the customer’s viewpoint (a “perspective-taking intervention”).

Researchers discovered setting a pre-work mentality reduced employees’ perceptions of mistreatment, reduced their negative mood and led to less rumination and impulse shopping.

Becoming more prosocial shifts attention away from the self and reduces impulsive and individualistic acts, explain the study authors.

“These recall and perspective-taking interventions are quick and easy exercises that customer-service employees can do prior to beginning the workday to reduce the stress from rude customers,” Johnson said.

Source: Michigan State University