Employee representations of customer harassment and its causes in self-reported tales – enlightening spotlights on dark matters?

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Thomas Borchmann
Bendt Torpegaard Pedersen


In this paper we explore the potential qualities of the processing and sharing of instances of verbal and behavioural harassment experienced by employees in their interactions with customers. The data originates from a study of an internet forum where employees from customer-oriented job functions share their experiences of troublesome interactions with customers. 1859 tales and 2932 responses have been analysed using content analysis and descriptive statistics. The study focused on mapping 1) the character of the incidents experienced, 2) the employees’ perceptions and representations of possible causes of the incidents, 3) the content and character of the solutions presented, 4) the emotions displayed, and 5) the received responses. In this article we limit our focus to the findings relating to the character of the experienced incidents and the representation of possible causes of the incidents and use these findings to discuss the potential qualities of the experience processing. We argue that the experience processing displays both positive and negative qualities. Among the positive qualities are; a potential for authenticity stemming from the events being self-experienced, continuity, equal access, reflexivity and diminishing of self-blame. Among the negative qualities are; some conditioning by gender socialization, traces of narrowmindedness and individualization founded in attribution biases, some problematic stereotyping and rare instances of self-blame.

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How to Cite
Borchmann, T., & Pedersen, B. T. (2020). Employee representations of customer harassment and its causes in self-reported tales: – enlightening spotlights on dark matters?. Communication &Amp; Language at Work, 7(1), 86–99. https://doi.org/10.7146/claw.v7i1.123257