Rude Employee Behavior Drives Away Business Says Christine Porath

October 03, 2011 Christine Porath

Retail business customers who witness rude behavior among employees often are driven away without reporting the negative experience, leaving managers unaware of harmful behavior, according to research co-authored by Christine Porath, an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, published in September’s Journal of Service Research.

The study, “It’s Unfair: Why Customers Who Merely Observe an Uncivil Employee Abandon the Company” is a collaboration between Porath and two professors from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, Deborah MacInnis and Valerie Folkes.

The study found that witnessing incivility makes customers angry and violates fairness perceptions regarding how employees should be treated. The customers often seek revenge against the perpetrator and the firm. According to the article, 92 percent of customers who see rudeness in a store, restaurant, or service industry will tell their friends and family.

“From a customer standpoint, it isn’t just about how you’re being treated. The fact is that you don’t like to witness this kind of behavior,” Porath said.

According to the article, incivility is not a problem limited to a particular industry; however restaurants, retailers, and government offices should be particularly concerned because incivility in these settings seems to be more memorable. The authors recommend management training programs focusing on the effects of incivility. The full paper can be viewed here.