“Render Good for Evil” or “Take an Eye for an Eye”? The Double-Edged Sword of Customer Mistreatment

Wenzhu Lu, Haibo Wu, Shanshi Liu, Bo Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although some research has suggested that customer mistreatment results in employees’ negative behavioral responses, other research has also sought to explore prosocial behavioral responses. We explain these inconsistent findings by considering the employees’ dynamic cognitional appraisals of daily customer mistreatment experience; these distinct cognition appraisals can explain why customer mistreatment could activate both dysfunctional and functional behavioral responses. We assumed that customer mistreatment could elicit an employee’s threat appraisal on some days, thus activating customer-directed counterproductive work behavior (CWB). Customer mistreatment could also result in a challenge appraisal on other days in which an employee focuses on a potential performance improvement opportunity, motivating them to engage in more prosocial service behavior. We predicted that an individual’s core self-evaluation (CSE) could moderate these effects, prompting customer mistreatment to be appraised as a challenge instead of a threat, which then reduces “take an eye for an eye” behavior responses (i.e., customer-directed CWB) and enhances “render good for evil” ones (i.e., prosocial service behavior). Our experience with research on 82 employees across 9 days, resulting in 625 responses, provided support for our predictions. The research provides a more comprehensive theoretical perspective to explain the dual paths of employees’ responses to customer mistreatment and also explains whether individuals’ CSE could help employees cope with customer mistreatment more positively.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business and Psychology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022


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