Do Frontline Employees Cope Effectively with Abusive Supervision and Customer Incivility? Testing the Effect of Employee Resilience

  • Mohd Ahmad Al-HawariEmail author
  • Shaker Bani-Melhem
  • Samina Quratulain
Original Paper


This paper examines multiple workplace interpersonal stressors experienced by frontline employees. Drawing upon conservation of resources theory, we propose that abusive supervision and customer incivility positively relate to emotional exhaustion and indirectly affect service performance and the capacity to satisfy customers. The study posits that employee resilience is an individual difference variable that mitigates the impact of interpersonal stressors on emotional exhaustion and buffers the negative effect of emotional exhaustion on service performance and the capacity to satisfy customers. The model is tested on a sample of 192 frontline employees using structural equation modeling. Data were collected from frontline employees working in different service organizations using a time-lagged design, and supervisor-rated employee performance was also measured. The findings show that both abusive supervision and customer incivility are positively related to emotional exhaustion. The effect of customer incivility on emotional exhaustion is mitigated by employee resilience, and the indirect effect of customer incivility on the capacity to satisfy customers is stronger for low-resilience employees. For managers, our findings highlight the importance of controlling multiple interpersonal workplace stressors, and employee resilience represents an important resource that can be exhausted with continued exposure to stressors. Organizations should develop better job designs and improve leadership practices that can help minimize the impact of interpersonal stressors on frontline employees’ performance.


Abusive supervision Customer incivility Emotional exhaustion Resilience Service performance Capacity to satisfy customers 



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management, College of Business AdministrationUniversity of SharjahSharjahUnited Arab Emirates

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