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Work Stress Can Lead to Shopping Binges

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 theĀ 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

Work Stress Can Lead to Shopping Binges

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. (2018). Work Stress Can Lead to Shopping Binges. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 19 Jul 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.