How are career adaptable and customer oriented employees treated? Examining career-situated factors that reduce customer mistreatment

Rajiv K. Amarnani, Emika C. Howard, Simon Restubog, March L. To

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


Many service workers receive customer mistreatment—low-quality interpersonal treatment from customers—yet little is known about why employees differ in how much customer mistreatment they receive. Drawing upon career construction theory, we cast a spotlight on the service career-situated strengths and attributes that confer upon service workers both the ability and motivation to successfully fulfill service norms and avoid interpersonal mistreatment. Specifically, we focus on customer orientation and career adaptability as career-situated motivations and abilities, respectively, that explain which employees receive more customer mistreatment. The proposed model was tested and expanded programmatically in a series of three studies using dyadic and daily diary field studies. The results across all three studies show that employees who possessed high levels of career adaptability in tandem with high levels of customer orientation were less likely to experience customer mistreatment. These results held even after controlling for Big Five personality factors in Studies 2 and 3. We discuss theoretical implications for the antecedents of workplace mistreatment, the mixed blessing of customer orientation for service workers, and the role of career processes in workplace aggression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103740
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Vocational Behavior
Early online date22 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2022


  • Career adaptability
  • Customer mistreatment
  • Customer orientation
  • Incivility
  • Workplace aggression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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