Asia Pacific Journal of Management

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 245–273 | Cite as

Service employees’ concurrent adaptive and unethical behaviors in complex or non-routine tasks: The effects of customer control and self-monitoring personality

  • Jixia YangEmail author
  • Kuo Hui Frank Yu
  • Chi-Jui Huang


We investigate how uncertainty-ridden task environments simultaneously trigger both positive and negative coping behaviors among front-line service employees. We suggest that complex and non-routine tasks give rise to employees’ exercise of both creative discretion such as adaptive selling and deviant discretion such as unethical selling behavior. Moreover, customer control moderates these relations by constraining employees’ adaptive selling and encouraging unethical selling. We propose three-way interactions, where an employee’s self-monitoring trait further influences customer control’s moderating effects. We collected 798 service episodes from 55 financial service employees in Hong Kong and Taiwan. We find that task complexity and task non-routineness relate to adaptive selling and unethical selling; low self-monitors engage in most adaptive selling in complex tasks with low controlling customers; and high monitors engage in most unethical selling in non-routine tasks with high controlling customers. Our person-environment-process model informs front-line discretion theory as well as management and practice of front-line discretion.


Task complexity Task non-routineness Adaptive selling Unethical selling Customer control Self-monitoring 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ManagementCity University of Hong KongKowloon TongHong Kong
  2. 2.Center for Catastrophic Risk ManagementUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Department of Finance and Cooperative ManagementNational Taipei UniversityNew Taipei CityTaiwan

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