The study, which examined how frontline employees at a luxury hotel with locations in Vancouver and Beijing reacted to customer mistreatment, indicated North Americans resorted to sabotage 20 per cent more often.
Chinese workers, meanwhile, were 19 per cent more likely to feel a lack of enthusiasm about their jobs, according to the study.
"Our research shows that culture plays a significant role in how frontline workers deal with customer abuse," says study co-author and UBC Sauder School of Business Prof. Daniel Skarlicki.
"In North America, employees tend to retaliate against offensive customers — doing things like giving bad directions or serving cold food. In China, workers are more likely to reduce the general quality of service they provide to all customers – nasty or nice."
The researchers met with small groups of hotel employees in Beijing and Vancouver to identify a set of common abusive situations and methods workers used to sabotage ill-mannered guests.
They then conducted a series of surveys with 132 employees in Beijing and 82 in Vancouver, who reported how often they experienced abuse, the frequency of sabotage directed at customers as a result of abuse, and the level to which the employees felt an affinity toward their jobs.