Service amid crisis: the role of supervisor humor and discretionary organizational support

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Donald Barnes (Creator)
Rebecca Guidice (Creator)
Jessica Mesmer-Magnus (Creator)
Lisa Scribner (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
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Abstract: PurposeThis paper aims to study the effects of widespread stress and uncertainty that is characteristic of organizational crises on service employees and to explore the extent to which organizations may proactively use supervisors’ positive humor and discretionary organizational support that goes above and beyond service employee expectations to mitigate the pandemic’s negative impact on work engagement.Design/methodology/approachCross-sequential survey-based data was collected from 172 service employees during the height of the pandemic to assess service employees’ perceptions of both their supervisors’ use of positive humor and their employers’ discretionary organizational support in response to the emotion-laden stress and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. PROCESS analysis was used to test the hypotheses and to conduct supplementary analyses.FindingsResults suggest employee perceptions of supervisors’ use of positive humor positively impact dimensions of work engagement at Time 1. This engagement then positively impacts extra-role behavior, innovativeness and pride at Time 2. The impact from supervisor humor to the outcomes is fully mediated through work engagement. From a moderation perspective, discretionary organizational support was shown as a substitute for creating work engagement at low levels of supervisor humor suggesting that the two “resource builders” can act as substitutes in creating engagement.Originality/valueThis paper provides unique insights into both the valuable role of positive workplace humor for service workers’ work engagement during times of widespread crisis and the moderating role discretionary organizational support plays when perceptions of humor are relatively low. Moreover, the supplemental examination of the multidimensional work engagement construct as a mediator between humor and the service outcomes of extra-role behavior, innovativeness and organizational pride provides unique insights into how a crisis context may deferentially affect the experience and implications of engagement for other service worker outcomes. Understanding the proactive, ameliorative role in service effectiveness played by supervisor humor and discretionary organizational support during crises is an emerging question for service research.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2022
customer service, service encounter, engagement, frontline service employees

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