Innovation in the frontline: Exploring the relationship between role conflict, ideas for improvement, and employee service performance

J.J.L. Schepers, E.J. Nijssen, G.A.H. van der Heijden

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Abstract

Although practitioners and scholars recognize that frontline employees' (FLEs') performance may improve rather than suffer from role conflict, research has yet to show how firms can manage this complex process. This study proposes that employees' ideas for improvement are a crucial mediator in role conflict's positive influence on FLEs' service performance. A conditional process model was tested in two empirical studies with multisource data. Results show that role conflict positively influences service performance through the employee's ideas for improvement. Role conflict also has a direct negative effect on performance. Detailed moderating analyses, using a floodlight approach, show that role conflict's total effect on service performance is positive only when an employee's learning orientation and the manager's level of encouragement for improvement are aligned. In other cases role conflict does not affect, or can even seriously impair FLEs' service performance. This study is the first to demonstrate empirically how, and under what conditions, role conflict can lead to performance enhancement of FLEs. Our findings help marketing managers to leverage role conflict for service innovation and to serve customers better.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-817
JournalInternational Journal of Research in Marketing
Volume33
Issue number4
Early online date21 Feb 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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Keywords

  • Frontline employees
  • Ideas for improvement
  • Innovation
  • Learning orientation
  • Role conflict
  • Service performance

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