POSTED BY: Jim Ittenbach | February 18, 2010
Everyone knows it’s bad for business when a store clerk is rude to customers. It also turns out that when employees are rude to one another, it creates a negative impression that affects consumer judgments of the company, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Authors Christine Porath, Debbie MacInnis, and Valerie Folkes (all University of Southern California) conducted several studies of employee-employee incivility and found that consumers frequently witnessed incidents of employees behaving badly toward each other.
“Employee incivility was reported across a variety of industries, including restaurants, banks, government offices, gyms, retail stores, universities, airlines, and entertainment venues,” the authors write. “Approximately 40 percent reported witnessing an act of employee incivility at least once per month.”
Across four studies, the authors found that consumers witnessing acts of employee incivility among employees is extremely detrimental to companies.
“It induces consumer anger and causes consumers to make broad and negative conclusions (generalizations) about the firm as a whole, other employees who work there, and expectations about future encounters with the firm; conclusions that go well beyond the uncivil incident.”
Surprisingly, these negative responses extended even to cases when the uncivil employee was trying to help the customer by rectifying a delay in service delivery.