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Author ORCID Identifier


Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Melissa Baker

Subject Categories

Business and Corporate Communications | Hospitality Administration and Management | Human Resources Management | Organizational Behavior and Theory


Customer incivility occurs daily, and employees are more prone to uncivil customers now more than ever. This is further exacerbated by the prevalent notion that “the customer is always right” that has prevailed in the service industry for decades as part of the importance of satisfying the customers at any cost, intensifying the notion of service “entitlement” given to customers. Because customer incivility is now so commonplace, some firms are adjusting their communication strategies to focus more on employee support and less on customer-only focused messaging. For example, food service businesses are now going viral for posting an employee-valued message at the front door by saying, “Be kind or leave” in response to the increase in customer incivility and to show support to employees and inform customers of appropriate behavior. The message asks customers to treat the frontline employees with respect, establishing a clear expectation of customer conduct. This represents an important industry shift that necessitates future research. In other words, research is needed that examines customer versus employee-focused support messages. Despite the importance of this shift from customer-focused to employee-focused messages, no research to date investigates this. Furthermore, this research contributes by examining the firm proactive approach (value-focused message) as most research on customer incivility takes a reactive approach examining the effect of organizational support or managerial support only after the customer incivility happens. This creates a significant gap that requires an exploration of service employee perceptions on the organization’s proactive approach in dealing with customer incivility.

Building upon the gaps identified from the previous research, Study 1 adopts a critical incident technique (CIT) to explore the employee perceptions of customer incivility, organizational support, managerial support, and the firm’s value message. Then, Study 2 adopts an experimental design to investigate the effect of value messages (customer-valued vs. employee-valued) on employees’ attitudes and behaviors. After identifying the importance of employee-valued messages against customer incivility, Study 3 extends its approach to identify the customer’s psychological mechanism toward the message. Particularly, this study examines the effect of the employee-valued messages by comparing two of the most important yet under-researched variables ‒ assertive vs. non-assertive messages. As an original work to examine the impact of employee-valued messages against customer incivility and its underlying mechanism from both employee and customer perspectives, this research can provide robust theoretical and managerial implications.