Emotional Tug-O-War: The Tension between Organisational Citizen Behaviour and Employee Resistance in a Jamaican Service Enterprise

Anne Crick
Noel Cowel
Background: There appears to be an overwhelming consensus in the literature on strategic human resource management that the competencies and capabilities of ordinary workers are key sources of competitive advantage. Various streams of literature suggest that empowering, training, compensating and communicating with front-line workers, in particular, is indispensable for achieving organisational objectives. This is particularly the case in service industries, which rely almost entirely on the voluntary contribution of emotional labour to create the kinds of customer experiences that support repeat business. In some businesses considerable attention and financial resources are devoted to extracting this kind of response from the employee. On the other hand there is considerable literature suggesting that employee behaviour is often characterised by various forms of deviance ranging from theft of property to various forms of neglect. The motivations for this kind of behaviour is well documented in the international literature and the limited attention to this phenomenon in the Jamaican context suggests that it is also present here. There are a range of reasons for believing that various forms of workplace deviance might be more extreme in Jamaica. Among these are the history of slavery and the plantation system, the extremes of social inequality, the lack of trust, the pervasiveness of a culture of anancyism and the strong sense of injustice that is often reflected in the behaviour of lower ranking employees.

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the mechanism by which service organisations reconcile the tension between deviance or employee resistance on the one hand and the voluntary provision of emotional labour on the other.

Research Design: The paper will rely on a case study of a single organisation located in the major urban centre of Jamaica. Interviews will be conducted with supervisors who have responsibility for workers engaged in direct service encounters. In addition, documentary evidence will be sought from guest comment forms and other records such as those relating to disciplinary infractions.

Findings: The study is expected, inter alia, to reveal insight into the kinds of deviant behaviours practiced by employees in service encounters and how these affect the quality of service in organisations.

Research implications/Limitations: The research will cover a single case and will not yield generalisations beyond a single workplace. It is, however expected to yield previously unrevealed insights into the connection between workplace deviance and emotional labour

Practical implications: The results of this study should help Caribbean human resource managers in the hospitality sector develop and refine strategies for encouraging behaviour that positively impact the service encounter.

Originality/Value: The paper will be one of few to explore the connection between employee resistance and the delivery of service work.

Key words: Workplace resistance, workplace deviance, emotional labour, tourism, Jamaica.

Paper Type: Research Paper