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Serving Multiple Masters: Role Conflict Experienced By Service Employees

Beth G. Chung, B. Schneider
Published 2002 · Business

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Customer‐contact employees are a critical asset of service organizations due to the interactive nature of service delivery. Customer‐contact employees are boundary spanners who attempt to serve both internal and external constituents. Attempting to serve two masters can result in role conflict and the present effort presents and tests a framework for understanding possible antecedents and consequences of such role conflict. Survey data collected from 200 telephone service employees in an insurance company revealed at least partial support for the following hypotheses: role conflict emerges when there is a discrepancy between what employees think customers expect of them and what they report management rewards them for doing; role conflict, in turn, is related to employee attitudinal (e.g. job satisfaction) and behavioral (e.g. absenteeism) outcomes; and role conflict mediates the relationship between service orientation discrepancy and employee outcomes. Implications of the results for the management of service employees and service quality are presented.
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