On the Receiving End of Customer Creativity: Insights From Approach-Avoidance and Interpersonal Complementarity Perspectives

Randy LEE*, Anthony KLOTZ, Shawn MCCLEAN, Remus ILIES, Jack H. ZHANG

*Corresponding author for this work

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


Increasingly, transactions between firms and customers are typified by the co-creation of value, wherein customers play an active role in the development of new products and services. Over the past two decades, research on co-creation has flourished across multiple disciplines, largely highlighting its benefits for firms and customers. Importantly, though, while customer engagement in the creative process may be viewed positively by customers and improve organizational performance, it may not be experienced as universally positive by the service providers who must respond to it. To gain a more complete understanding of both the positive and negative sides of customer creativity, we take an approach-avoidance perspective to build a theoretical model explaining how and why customer creative behavior can lead to divergent responses by service providers. Specifically, we describe how creativity by customers can inspire service providers, driving them to act more prosocially toward customers in return. Simultaneously, customer creativity can cause performance anxiety in service providers, leading them to withdraw from their work. Adding nuance to these predictions, we draw from interpersonal complementary theory to explain why the approach-avoidance processes triggered by customer creativity should be contingent on service providers’ creative-role identity. Across an experience-sampling field study (Study 1), a critical-incident experiment (Study 2), and a scenario-based experiment (Study 3), our results largely align with our theoretical model (overall N = 647). We close by discussing the theoretical and practical implications of our work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Management
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 May 2024

Bibliographical note

We also thank Dr. Jason Huang and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback and suggestions throughout the review process.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • approach-avoidance
  • customer creative behavior
  • inspiration
  • performance anxiety


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