Organizational initiatives to strengthen customer orientation among front‐line service workers abound, and have led many commentators to speak of the reconstitution of service work. These interventions rest on managers’ assumptions about what engenders the desired customer‐oriented behaviours among employees. We evaluate those assumptions in the context of a major change initiative in a supermarket firm. The logic of the programme mirrors key precepts in the contemporary management literature. These are that management behaviour, job design and values‐based training can produce a sense of empowerment among employees, and that empowerment will generate prosocial customer‐oriented behaviour. Using data from a large scale employee survey, we test the validity of those assumptions. Employees who perceived management behaviour in a positive light and who had participated in values‐based training were more likely to feel empowered (i.e. to have internalized prosocial service values and to feel a sense of competence and autonomy on the job). Psychological empowerment was, in turn, positively related to the customer‐oriented behaviour of workers. This study, therefore, provides support for key assumptions underlying HRM theory and practice in services.
Journal of Management Studies – Wiley
Published: Sep 1, 2001
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