Customers who believe they are entitled to more than they deserve can have a negative physical and psychological impact on the employees who serve them, according to a new study. Glenda M. Fisk and Lukas B. Neville of Queen’s University in Australia, sought to determine the effects of high entitlement patrons on wait staff. “For instance, individuals high in entitlement behave competitively, misappropriate resources more often, are self-interested in romantic relationships, and allocate themselves disproportionate levels and types of rewards,” said the researchers. “The expectation of special treatment, absent any felt responsibility to earn such treatment, is found in a range of contexts including employee relations.”
The researchers enlisted 56 people who had an average of 3.4 years of experience waiting tables. They asked them to recall three specific instances in which a customer had expressed an attitude of high entitlement and how it made them feel, both physically and emotionally. The results revealed that the entitled patrons, who exhibited a feeling of superiority, induced stress in the servers. “Entitled customers threw food and money, snapped their fingers, haggled over the price of menu items, and refused to tip,” said the team. “Most frequently, participants noted that entitled customers were verbally aggressive, asking to speak with restaurant management or yelling and cursing at service staff when they did not get their way.”
The effect on the wait staff can be severe. “An examination of server accounts indicated that interactions with entitled customers can take a heavy toll on waitstaff; all but six participants reported some degree of attitudinal or behavioral shift as a result of their dealings with entitled patrons,” said the researchers. Nearly 64 percent of the servers reported emotional regulation and a negative cognitive reaction. Additionally, 12 of the servers said they felt inefficient and reported feeling decreased personal levels of accomplishment. The researchers concluded, “The current research indicates serving entitled patrons exerts negative effects on employee health and wellbeing, suggesting organizations play a more active role in helping their workers manage this construct.”
Fisk, G. M., & Neville, L. B. (2011, June 20). Effects of Customer Entitlement on Service Workers’ Physical and Psychological Well-Being: A Study of Waitstaff Employees. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0023802
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