Research

Abuse at work linked to shopping binges

21 Aug 2017 By Emily Burt

Workers who face verbal abuse from customers are more likely to go on unnecessary shopping sprees

Service workers who face verbal abuse from customers during their working hours are more likely to go on unnecessary shopping sprees in the evening, a research paper by experts based in the US and China suggests.

A study of 94 call centre employees working at a large bank in China, who were surveyed multiple times a day for 15 consecutive workdays, found that dealing with customer mistreatment – for example, those who yelled, argued or swore – put staff in a bad mood after work. The stresses led to participants engaging in negative thoughts and behaviours, such as dwelling on the interactions and indulging in impulse shopping.

As well as exploring the knock-on reactions of bad customer experiences, the researchers tested two mindfulness interventions in an attempt to solve the negative thought patterns and behaviours of participants. On days when, before starting work, workers thought about a positive social incident where they had helped a customer, or improved their perspective by considering an interaction from the viewpoint of a customer, perceptions of mistreatment were reduced, negative moods improved and employees became less likely to indulge in impulsive behaviours.

Remembering positive social interactions encourages workers to shift their focus away from the self, improves daily customer interactions and reduces the likelihood of engaging in dysfunctional coping responses, says Russell Johnson, the study’s co-author: “Recall and perspective-taking interventions are quick and easy exercises that customer service staff can do before the work day to reduce the stress from rude customers.”

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