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Paper by Rob Smith accepted in Journal of Applied Social Psychology

Published: 13th March 2020 Last updated: 13th March 2020

A paper by Rob Smith (co-authored with Jesse Chandler, University of Michigan, and Norbert Schwarz, University of Southern California) has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

Title: "Uniformity: The Effects of Organizational Attire on Judgments and Attributions"

Abstract

Despite their prevalence in the marketplace, little empirical attention has been paid to how employee uniforms affect consumer reactions to service-experiences. We propose that employee uniforms facilitate the shared categorization of employees and their organization in the mind of the customer, which affects many of the inferences that customers draw following service encounters. Study 1 shows that uniforms lead to greater attribution of responsibility to the company for employee behavior, especially following poor service. Studies 2 and 3 show that uniforms also lead to more assimilation of judgments across employees, increasing the impact of one employee’s behavior on judgments of other employees of the same organization. Study 3 shows that employee uniforms lead to more extreme judgments of the company following service encounters. It also shows that bad (good) service from a uniformed employee makes competing companies look better (worse), indicating that uniforms can elicit contrast effects across companies. In sum, the mere presence of a uniform on an unsatisfactory service or retail employee can damage judgments of the organization and its employees and improve judgments of rival organizations compared to identical service from a non-uniformed employee. Managers seem unaware of these negative consequences. These same principles are likely to apply to a wide variety of uniformed services, including police, military, firefighters, and health care providers.