Are you too happy to serve others? When and why positive affect makes customer mistreatment experience feel worse

Randy LEE, Ke Michael MAI*, Feng QIU, Remus ILIES, Pok Man TANG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Service employees encounter frequent mistreatments on the job, and these mistreatments can occur unexpectedly. Despite the overall favorable impact of positive affect on coping with negative events, we argue that it could create an expectancy disconfirmation for service employees when they face customer mistreatment. Drawing from expectancy disconfirmation theory, we predict that such expectancy disconfirmation heightens service employees’ need for self-regulation and thus consumes self-control resources. Using a total of 791 service professionals in both online and field (i.e., e-commerce firms in China and a hotel in India) experiments, we found that positive expectancy disconfirmation was positively related to self-control depletion, which led to greater subsequent perceived mistreatment by customers and need for psychological detachment from work (Study 1 and 2). Furthermore, we identified expectation of customer mistreatment as a boundary condition that attenuated the relationship between expectancy disconfirmation and self-control depletion (Study 3 and 4). We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our work.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104188
Number of pages18
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Early online date7 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

The first two authors contributed equally to this article, and authorship was determined by alphabetical order. Ke Michael Mai’s work on the article was supported by National University of Singapore (NUS Start-Up Grant: R-317-000-124-133) and Singapore Ministry of Education (AcRF TIER 1 Grant: R-317-000-135-115).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • Customer mistreatment
  • Expectancy disconfirmation
  • Positive affect
  • Self-control depletion


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