Understanding the Differential Effects of Anxiety and Anger

depression-2912404_1280[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Laurie J. Barclay of Wilfrid Laurier University, and Tina Kiefer of the University of Warwick. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management entitled “In the Aftermath of Unfair Events: Understanding the Differential Effects of Anxiety and Anger,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, the motivation for their research:]

JOM_42_5_Covers.inddWhat motivated you to pursue this research?
We were interested in how employees experience unfair events on a day-to-day basis and how they “live through” and actively navigate these experiences. We wanted to move away from the dominant perspective in the literature that examines how unfairness impacts employees through the “eyes” and interests of managers and organizations. Instead, we wanted to ground our investigation in employees’ experiences to understand how employees process and respond to these events and how this impacts their relationship with the organization.

Within the fairness literature, it is often assumed that negative emotions are detrimental. However, negative emotions can be functional for employees and hence organizations. One of our study’s most compelling findings is that employees who experience anxiety in reaction to the unfair event are motivated to engage in problem prevention behaviors, which are aimed at “fixing” the situation. Interestingly, employees who engage in these behaviors experienced a “rebound” in their fairness perceptions, such that the drop in perceived fairness due to the unfair event was corrected. By contrast, anger was functional by showing that the unfairness would not be tolerated but did not have the same positive impact on subsequent fairness perceptions. This raises important questions about how employees’ behaviors impact the aftermath of the unfair event and the importance of understanding how employees are experiencing these events to effectively manage these situations.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?
After decades of research, the fairness literature has become a mature and well-established domain of inquiry, with thousands of studies and dozens of theories. Although this wealth of empirical evidence and theoretical diversity has provided much richness, incoming researchers and doctoral students can find it a bit intimidating to dive into. Further, some scholars have also questioned whether the maturity of this literature will lead to stagnation. However, there are many opportunities to make significant, novel, and important discoveries in this domain by taking different and novel perspectives.

One way to continue to stimulate this literature is to identify and question its underlying assumptions. For example, in our research, we grounded our investigation in the experiences of employees which challenges the dominant perspective in the field. This approach created a number of insights regarding how employees actively navigate unfair events, including how employees can impact their own fairness perceptions through their emotional and behavioral responses as well as the functional nature of negative emotions.

We would encourage new scholars and incoming researchers to challenge assumptions in the literature and also consider how applying theories from other domains and perspectives to fairness can enhance our insights. Doing so will create exciting new opportunities to expand our understanding and ability to manage this important phenomenon. Given the pervasiveness and impact of unfairness, it is critical to provide employees and organizations with evidence-based practices that can help prevent these experiences, where possible, and effectively navigate unfairness when it does occur.

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Stress photo attributed to whoismargot. (CC)


Unhappy Customers? Here’s How To Deal

With the advent of social media, dissatisfied customers can easily vent their frustrations in a very public way. But a study published in the latest Journal of Service Research issue, and highlighted this week on BusinessNewsDaily, shows that companies can turn social media to their advantage in such situations. From BusinessNewsDaily:

“When customers can vent their frustrations directly to employees of the firm, the channel of communication between the service provider and consumer becomes much stronger, allowing for a more open conversation where both parties can create and mutually agree upon possible solutions,” said Yuliya Strizhakova of Rutgers University, who conducted the research with fellow Rutgers professor Julie A. Ruth and Yelena Tsarenko, of Australia’s Monash University. “This direct relationship also allows service personnel to provide the empathy and emotional support that customers are looking for.”

Read the article, “‘I’m Mad and I Can’t Get That Service Failure Off My Mind’: Coping and Rumination as Mediators of Anger Effects on Customer Intentions,” in the November issue of the Journal of Service Research. The abstract:

Although anger elicited in service failures harms providers, little is known about the ways customers deal with anger. Building upon stress-and-coping theory, we propose a theoretical framework that examines customer coping strategies—expressive, active, and denial—and rumination about the incident as mediators of anger on customer intentions. Across two studies and in more and less conventional service channels, rumination decreases positive behavioral intentions and increases negative word-of-mouth intentions. Customer coping strategies mediate effects of anger on rumination. Specifically, while expressive coping mediates effects of anger on rumination, active coping mediates these effects in more conventional service channels, whereas denial mediates these effects in less conventional channels. Customer tendency to ruminate moderates effects in less conventional channels. Because customers have and use a repertoire of coping strategies that differentially affect rumination and customer intentions, strategies designed to guide customers toward active coping and mitigate rumination should be the cornerstone of service recovery. If and when service failures occur, managers should encourage customers’ active coping to resolve the problem; otherwise, customers may cope by expressing their negative emotions to others or deny the episode, both of which increase customer rumination and detrimental outcomes for the firm.

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It’s Unfair: Why Customers Who Merely Observe an Uncivil Employee Abandon the Company

Christine Porath, Georgetown University, Deborah MacInnis and Valerie S. Folkes, both of University of Southern California, Los Angeles, published “It’s Unfair: Why Customers Who Merely Observe an Uncivil Employee Abandon the Company” on April 17, 2011 in the OnlineFirst collection of the Journal of Service Research. This article has received impressive attention from the press with articles published on Physorg.com and the Los Angeles Times.

The Abstract:

Employees sometimes engage in uncivil behavior in the workplace. We ask (a) How commonly do customers witness an employee behaving uncivilly? (b) What negative effects does customers’ witnessing of an employee’s uncivil behavior have on customers and firms? (c)Why do these effects occur? The results of three studies suggest that it is not uncommon for customers to witness an employee behaving in an uncivil manner. It occurs in many industries. Moreover, witnessing such behavior makes customers angry and creates desires to get back at the uncivil perpetrator and the firm. These effects occur even when a manager’s uncivil comment is aimed at correcting a subordinate’s job-related offense and even when it is delivered offstage, outside of the customer servicescape. Finally, we demonstrate that these effects are driven by customers’ concerns about deontic injustice from incivility (reaction to a wrongful misconduct that violates fairness standards). These results contribute to the literature on workplace incivility and customer reactions to service encounters as well as the burgeoning literature on customer anger and revenge. We suggest that organizations invest in training programs focusing on employee civility. Managers should receive training in coaching to mitigate against the detrimental effects of incivility.

Other articles in the OnlineFirst collection can be found here. For more information about the Journal of Service Research, please follow this link.

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