When waiters attack!
Apparently, it’s tough to turn the other cheek or even to simply ignore an abusive customer — at least when it comes to waitstaff.
Researchers from Baylor University and The University of Houston said that while much research has explored what drives employees to lash out at supervisors and co-workers, little is known about what drives "counterproductive work behavior" (CWB) by workers toward their customers.
The study, The Waiter Spit in My Soup! Antecedents of Customer-Directed Counterproductive Work Behavior, first appeared in the Human Performance periodical.
Using survey research of 438 food service employees (including servers, hosts, bartenders, cashiers, and managers), the researchers found these workers particularly challenged by "emotional regulation strain," or continually having to maintain a friendly demeanor despite feeling frustrated with or angered by customers. The range of customer stressors include disproportionate customer expectations, customer verbal aggression, generally unpleasant customers, and ambiguous customer expectations.
"Food service employees generally do their best to provide a positive experience for customers," said Dr. Lisa Penney, one of the co-authors, in a statement. "However, they are human too, and the strain of dealing with extremely rude, demanding or difficult customers can manifest in ways that do not benefit customers."
According to the survey, 79 percent of the food service workers at least once or twice made fun of customers to someone else. Other CWB actions they had done once or twice were lying (78 percent), making a customer wait longer (65 percent), ignoring them (61 percent), acting rudely (52 percent) and arguing (43 percent). At the extreme, workers admitted they had refused a reasonable request (25 percent), confronted a customer about tips (19 percent), insulted a customer (14 percent), increased a tip without permission (11 percent), contaminated food (6 percent), or threatened a customer (5 percent).
- Is your restaurant server’s smile genuine? (Press release) – Taylor & Francis Group
- The Waiter Spit in My Soup! Antecedents of Customer-Directed Counterproductive Work Behavior (study) – Taylor & Francis Group
- Is your restaurant server’s smile genuine? – Science Daily
- Waiters reveal what they do when customers tick them off – New York Daily News
Do retailers and food service establishments have enough coping strategies in place to help associates deal with negative or abusive customer experiences? Should some degree of CWB be expected and even allowed as stress relief?