How service agents manage the person-role interface

Blake Ashforth, Carol T. Kulik, Marc A. Tomiuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Service agents represent the organization in customer transactions. This study focuses on how agents manage the interface between their role as frontline exemplars of the organization and themselves as individuals. Semistructured interviews with 105 service agents from a variety of occupations suggest that service agents use transition rituals, boundary markers, and psychological preparation to enter and exit their service roles with surprisingly little effort; often find it difficult to maintain their objectivity and to minimize interrole blurring; are very aware of being "on stage" and use the backstage as a respite from stress and a place to resolve coworker conflicts; and protect against threats to their sense of self by rationalizing away the threats and partitioning their roles or partitioning themselves from the service role or clients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-45
Number of pages41
JournalGroup and Organization Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • Backstage
  • Boundary
  • Defense mechanisms
  • Role entry
  • Service

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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