Understanding the role of frontline employee felt obligation in services

Malhotra, Neeru, Ashill, Nicholas, Lages, Cristiana R and Homayounfard, Amir (2022) Understanding the role of frontline employee felt obligation in services. Service Industries Journal, 42(11-12), pp. 843-871. ISSN (print) 0264-2069


Drawing on social exchange theory, this study investigates the mechanism of felt obligation underpinning the link between three key forms of perceived support (organization, supervisor, and team) and three key frontline employee work outcomes. The study also examines felt obligation - employee work outcomes relationships under the boundary condition of perceived fairness in reward allocation to explore if felt obligation preserves employee support despite unfair outcomes. Data obtained from 347 frontline employees in a call centre organization largely support our hypotheses. Our findings demonstrate that perceived supervisor and team support exert a greater influence on felt obligation than the commonly investigated perceived organizational support. Our findings underscore the importance of felt obligation as an influential social exchange force that stimulates affective commitment and reduces turnover intentions of employees even under conditions when fairness in reward allocationis perceived to be lower. Felt obligation also influences service recovery performance positively.

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