How Can Stressed Employees Deliver Better Customer Service? The Underlying Self-Regulation Depletion Mechanism

Kimmy Wa Chan, Echo Wen Wan

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    109 Citations (Scopus)


    This research delineates and empirically tests how regulatory depletion may affect high-stress employees' service performance on different types of job tasks. Using a laboratory experiment and a survey study, the authors examine (1) whether work stress causes a depletion effect, such that high work stress undermines service employees' performance on tasks requiring self-regulation (e.g., customer complaint handling performance) versus tasks requiring limited self-regulation (e.g., customer-directed extra-role performance); (2) whether the depletion effect can be overcome by supervisory support or employees' engagement in perspective taking; and (3) how these moderating effects might be mediated by employees' feelings of fatigue and intrinsic job motivation. The results confirm regulatory depletion: High-stress employees feel more fatigue and perform more poorly than low-stress employees in tasks requiring self-regulation. However, the depletion effect from work stress is largely attenuated on employees' performance on tasks requiring less or limited self-regulation. The mediated moderation tests further show that the extent of the depletion effect is not uniform. Employees who can replenish their resources from supervisory support or enhance their goal focus by engaging in perspective taking are less affected by regulatory depletion. These buffering effects occur because of enhanced intrinsic job motivation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)119-137
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Marketing
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

    User-Defined Keywords

    • customer service
    • work stress
    • self-regulation depletion
    • complaint behaviors
    • extra-role behaviors
    • supervisory support
    • perspective taking


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