The Trade-off of Servicing Empowerment: Examining the Roles of Motivation and Workload Mechanisms

Kimmy Wa Chan, Wing Lam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Literature on empowerment as an internal marketing practice primarily documents positive effects on employees' job performance, though increasing evidence suggests conflicting viewpoints. This study adopts an agency theoretical perspective to propose a workload mechanism, according to which the delegation of power from supervisors (principals) to service employees (agents) (i.e., servicing empowerment) is costly to employees and increases their perceived workload, which hampers their performance to serve customers. Using a laboratory experiment and a survey, this research reveals that the perceived workload and extant motivational mechanisms have conflicting effects on employees’ service performance. The former exerts a significant negative impact on tasks that involve conflicting principal-agent interests (e.g., handling customer complaints) but not on tasks with aligned principal-agent interests (e.g., organizational citizenship behaviors). Two control systems, performance appraisal (accurate and infrequent feedback) and principal-agent service goal congruence, mitigate the dysfunctional effect of perceived workload on employees' service performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609–628
JournalJournal of the Academy of Marketing Science
Issue number4
Early online date18 Feb 2011
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011

User-Defined Keywords

  • Agency theory
  • Servicing empowerment
  • Task motivation and perceived workload
  • Customer complaint handling
  • Organizational citizenship behaviors toward customers
  • Performance appraisal
  • Principal-agent service goal congruence


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