How do food-service and retail workers interpret interactions with customers? Researchers have identified many novel sociological processes, specific to service work, that seem to pull service workers in opposing directions, leaving them either better or worse off. In this talk, I argue that these opposing processes are not mutually exclusive. Due to the nature of the job, service workers may experience a series of divergent interactions with customers during their job tenure. In order to account for these conflicting experiences, I take an orientations approach - analyzing summative judgments about customers and their associations with job satisfaction. I draw on a novel dataset of over 15,000 job quality evaluations from 10 food-service and retail companies, collected from Glassdoor.com. This website allows workers to post written reviews of the pros and cons of their job, as well as to provide numeric ratings of their job quality. Qualitatively coding a subset of 1,000 reviews, I find that frontline workers express three distinct orientations towards customer interactions: an occupational orientation - where customers are an inescapable occupational hazard or benefit, an organizational orientation - where positive and negative interactions are a result of organizational strategies, or as a source of intrinsic satisfaction. Using computational text analysis, I code the remaining 14,000 reviews to investigate how occupational and organizational orientations towards customers are related to job ratings. I find that an organizational orientation is associated with more extreme ratings of the job.
Speaker: Adam Storer, UC Berkeley
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