This research proposes and tests an empathy model of guest-directed discretionary behaviors (i.e., citizenship and counterproductive behaviors) using two studies conducted in three hotels. Building on the two-stage model of empathic mediation, we examined the mediating role of empathic concern in the relationship between perspective taking and both forms of discretionary behaviors in Study 1. Support for this mediated model was found in relation to citizenship behaviors but not for counterproductive behaviors. Study 2 was conducted to extend these findings using peer-reports of discretionary behaviors, and to apply an interactional psychology perspective to predict guest-directed counterproductive behaviors. We drew upon trait activation theory to highlight the importance of situational triggers, in the form of interpersonal injustice from guests, in moderating the relationship between perspective taking and counterproductive behaviors, mediated through empathic concern. We found support for the hypothesized moderated mediation effect, such that perspective taking inhibited counterproductive behaviors through empathic concern only when interpersonal injustice was high, but not when injustice was low. Replicating the results in Study 1, perspective taking also positively predicted peer-reported citizenship behaviors, but this was not mediated by empathic concern. Research and practical implications from these findings are discussed.

Practitioner Points:

  • Highlights to organizations in the hospitality industry the importance of perspective taking in generating customer goodwill, through promoting employees’ citizenship behaviors toward guests, and in reducing their counterproductive behaviors in instances of guest injustice.

  • Suggests ways in which organizations can develop employees’ perspective taking, such as appointing mentors or role models, providing training programs to help employees improve their interpersonal skills, and assessing job applicants’ trait empathy as part of the selection process.

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Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2011 The British Psychological Society. Article first published online: 11 OCT 2011. DOI: 10.1111/j.2044-8325.2011.02046.x.

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Full citation:

Ho, Violet T., and Naina Gupta. "Testing an Empathy Model of Guest-directed Citizenship and Counterproductive Behaviours in the Hospitality Industry: Findings from Three Hotels." Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 85, no. 3 (September 2012): 433-53. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8325.2011.02046.x.