Customer incivility from frequent customers in the context of service relationships: Critically exploring service employees’ coping tactics. / Haidar, Nolla.


Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

In preparation


Customer incivility constitute a significant area in human resources management and organisational behaviour. A plethora of studies suggest that customer incivility is widespread among service organisations and renders the atmosphere of the workplace as harmful and detrimental to employees’ psychological and physical well-being, due to the abusive environment surrounding them (Grandey et al., 2007; Kern and Grandey, 2009; Van Jaarsveld et al., 2010). Although these studies are significant and provide substantial information about incivility and its devastating impact on frontline employees during service interactions, there is still minimal focus on critically understanding customer incivility specifically within the restaurant industry. In the little research that does exist in the sector, frontliners are predominantly seen by scholars as the victims of both the customers and the management (Han et al., 2016; Cho et al., 2016). Building on previous research, I argued that employees are the “oppressed group” in the organization (Matheson and Bobay, 2007) and thus; employees are positioned at a weak power position relative to customers, which renders them vulnerable to experience incivility from customers. Particularly, little is known about the incivility construct and the ways employees use to cope with customer incivility specifically initiated by frequent customers in the context of service relationships.

The thesis employs a qualitative-ethnographic methodology. Data were gathered by participant-observation, informal interviews, netnography and also data is gathered from 12 interviewees (11 male and 1 female) from service employees working at a Lebanese ethnic “authentic” restaurant located in North West London. The empirical evidence indicates that there are two types of incivility are intentional and deliberate. Employees cope with these incivilities in different ways, which could be either individual or collective. The coping tactics of employees are strongly shaped by the organisational power of both the target and the instigator. Those in power were able to impose their construction of incivility on those of less power. Therefore, this thesis broadens our understanding about the tough and stressful work environment that employees suffer from due to their exposure of customer incivility. The data shows that employees are vulnerable and are exposed to incivility due to the toxic management which is positioning them in a weak power position relative to customers. The thesis concludes by emancipatory objectives necessary to protect employees in the face of the customer, and to promote gender indiscrimination and equity in an organisation.  

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date24 Apr 2020
Publication statusIn preparation - 2020

ID: 29471338