A meta-analysis of frontline employees’ role behavior and the moderating effects of national culture

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Many empirical studies have focused on understanding the frontline role process, which reflects the chain of effects including the antecedents and outcomes of frontline employees’ in-role behavior and extra-role behavior. A close examination of past findings reveals discrepancies across cultures. This meta-analysis provides insights into the moderating effects of national culture on the frontline role process. We build on role theory to consolidate role behavior’s antecedents to reflect the expectations emanating from four stakeholders of the frontline role: the organization, manager, peers, and customers. We formulate hypotheses on the moderating effects of national culture dimensions (i.e., power distance, individualism, masculinity, and uncertainty avoidance) and meta-analyze 105 articles, including 100 independent samples with 32,364 participants from 35 different countries, to test our predictions. The results show that customer expectations are the strongest antecedent to both in-role and extra-role behavior, and furthermore confirm that the frontline role process differs across cultures. We offer managers advice on how to adapt expectations for sales and service employees across countries to enhance frontline performance evaluations, customer satisfaction, and ultimately, the firm’s competitiveness. We also link our results to new frontline trends (e.g., service robots, artificial intelligence, remote service technology) and provide a future research agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-280
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Service Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Lead article


  • extra-role behavior
  • frontline employees
  • in-role behavior
  • meta-analysis
  • national culture
  • service encounter


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