Research Tracks

A publication of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Baylor University

September 16, 2014
by Baylor OVPR

Baylor research finds customers may share the blame for bad service


Dr. Emily Hunter

Most people, when they encounter poor service while dining out, will chalk up the problem to inexperience or ineptitude on the part of their server.  A new Baylor study suggests, however, that when a waiter forgets an order or leaves a beverage unfilled, it may be not be an oversight at all.  An inattentive or hostile waiter may be exhibiting an intentional response to stress brought on by their job, according to research by Dr. Emily Hunter, an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

“Customer service jobs have lots of emotional demands, but managers expect their employees to always have a good attitude,” said Hunter. “We know from prior research that those competing demands create emotional labor; this research shows that labor can cause employees to lash out at customers in response.”

While it has been well established that workers often react to stress by acting inappropriately, most prior research on the subject looked at employees’ behavior toward members of their own organization, not toward customers or other outsiders. Hunter says that studying customer-facing behavior and the motivations behind it is important to help improve management practices in a wide range of industries.

“This research is intended to help managers understand the pressures inherent in customer service so they can take steps to help their employees manage stress and prevent counterproductive behaviors,” Hunter said. “The service industry is a huge part of the economy, but most jobs have a customer service component of some kind, even if the ‘customer’ is another person in the same company.”

Hunter, along with a collaborator at the University of Houston, surveyed over 400 foodservice workers for the study, which was recently published in the journal Human Performance.

Click the links below to read more coverage of this research from news outlets around the world:

Video: Baylor professor separates fact from fiction on two well-known historical figures

August 5, 2013 by Baylor OVPR | 1 Comment

America’s history is filled with tales about ingenious or heroic actions by men and women who made significant advancements in science and technology.  Two of these well-worn narratives concern Thomas Edison’s status as the inventor of the light bulb and Benjamin Franklin’s “discovery” of electricity with his famous kite experiment.  But how much of what we know about these two stories is really true?

Dr. Blaine McCormick, an associate professor of management in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, recently appeared on the Military Channel program “America: Facts vs. Fiction,” where he discussed the popular understanding of these stories and suggested that what many of us learned in our history classes may not be completely accurate.

May 28, 2013
by Baylor OVPR

Business school faculty receive grant to study positive and negative consequences of daily work-family interruptions

Hankamer School of Business faculty members Dr. Emily Hunter (left) and Dr. Dawn Carlson.

Two faculty members in the Hankamer School of Business recently received a grant from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology to support their research on boundary violations between family and work responsibilities.  Dr. Emily Hunter, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship, and Dr. Dawn Carlson, professor and H.R. Gibson Chair of Management Development, will survey employees and their families to explore the impact of work-family boundary violations on factors like health, job performance and family satisfaction.

While previous research has shown that the stress of balancing family and work responsibilities can be detrimental to both job productivity and family happiness, Hunter says the current survey is designed to gather more detailed information about how intrusions from one area into the other actually impact employees and their families on a day-to-day basis.

The study will ask participants to record survey responses three times per day — in the morning, at the end of the work day, and at bedtime — to assess their feelings toward work, family, and the boundaries between them.

“Most of the other studies in this area have asked very general questions like ‘Have you been interrupted at work by family members?’ or ‘How do you manage interruptions from work when you’re at home?'” says Hunter.  “These one-time questions don’t measure employees’ experience at a day-to-day level.”

Because the daily data collection in this study allows participants to record their feelings more immediately, Hunter believes the survey will capture employees’ reactions to specific types of interruptions at particular times of day, for example, when a child calls her parents at work to let them know she is home from school.  Interruptions like these may look like a disruption to a manager, Hunter says, but they might actually help the employee to focus on work without worrying about their child.

Carlson, the project’s co-investigator, says that in addition to assessing the effect of work-family boundaries on productivity and relationships, the study will also examine the role of technology in helping employees balance their varied responsibilities.

“With the rapid spread of technology, people are constantly available,” she says, “and that has changed the way people manage the landscape of their work and family.  We hope this study will show how organizations can use technology and other policies to help employees work better and be happier.”