We integrate deontological ethics (Folger, 1998, 2001; Kant, 1785/1948, 1797/1991) with conservation of resources theory (Hobfoll, 1989) to propose that an employee's repeated exposure to violations of moral principle can diminish the availability of resources to appropriately attend to other personal and work domains. In particular, we identify customer unethical behavior as a morally charged work demand that leads to a depletion of resources as captured by employee emotional exhaustion. In turn, emotionally exhausted employees experience higher levels of work-family conflict, relationship conflict with coworkers, and job neglect. Employee emotional exhaustion serves as the mediator between customer unethical behavior and such outcomes. To provide further evidence of a deontological effect, we demonstrate the unique effect of customer unethical behavior onto emotional exhaustion beyond perceptions of personal mistreatment and trait negative affectivity. In Study 1, we found support for our theoretical model using multisource field data from customer-service professionals across a variety of industries. In Study 2, we also found support for our theoretical model using multisource, longitudinal field data from service employees in a large government organization. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Psychology
- Customer unethical behavior
- Deontic justice
- Emotional exhaustion