THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THINKING STYLES, SERVANT LEADERSHIP AND EXTRA-ROLE SERVICE BEHAVIOUR: AN EMPIRICAL STUDY IN THE HOTEL INDUSTRY
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
In today’s competitive world, creating unique services is the most essential part of any strategic initiatives and their purposes. Because two prominent, inseparableness and emotional labor driven characteristics of services, the customer contact employees play a crucial role in creating and sustaining unique services (Zeithaml and Bitner, 1996). They are seen as one of the main determinants of service quality in service businesses (Tsaur and Lin, 2004; Morrison, 1996). Therefore organizations expect their employees to go the extra mile, to be service oriented, and show flexibility regardless of their prescribed role (Bakker and Schaufeli, 2008; Gonzalez and Garazo, 2006). This behaviour of employees is called as extra-role service behaviour and it attributes to arbitrary behaviour of frontline personnel that exceed beyond prescribed role requirements (Lee, Nam, Parka and Lee, 2006) and is substantial in customer satisfaction (Peccei and Rosenthal, 2001).
In the literature, extra-role service behaviour of employees are explained by many antecedent factors. Among the factors that have often been researched are job satisfaction (MacKenzie, Podsakoff and Ahearne, 1998), organizational commitment (Lee et al., 2006), employee engagement (Schaufeli, Taris, & Bakker, 2006), service rewards (Eren, Burke, Astakhova, Koyuncu, Kaygısız, 2014), and job standardization (Tsaur, Wang, Yen and Liu, 2014). A factor that has not usually been considered is the thinking style of employees. Thinking styles (TS) are defined as our primary method of using the abilities that we own (Zhang and Sternberg, 2005). Thinking styles distinguish the attitude and behaviour of individuals in their job orientation and may affect their job performance (Budijanto, 2013). Given the main service focus of frontline employees is to initiate unique and intangible service product, their thinking style may play an important role in shaping service encounter. As Cools (2010) indicated that, differences in thinking styles may have a larger impact on behavior than ability, as they refer to a person’s typical rather than maximum performance. For example, a person could be creative or conservative depending on whether he/she works alone or in a team regarding the nature of the task (Zhang and Higgings, 2008). Although people can perform well in more than one thinking style, they can be more successful if they sufficiently pick the most suitable one for solving the problem (Orcik, Vrgovic and Tekic, 2014). Sternberg (1997) indicates that styles are relatively socialized, proposing that they can be shifted by the environment which people settle. Therefore, thinking styles are malleable (Zhang and Sternberg, 2006) and provide a substantial deal of promise for the future in assisting us to perceive some of the variation in job performance that cannot be explained by individual differences in abilities (Cools, 2010). Besides, it reflects various representation and process of information that takes shape within the frame that is surrounded by different situations and times (Balkis and Isiker, 2005). Hence, it is known that the people’s attitude toward the organisational surroundings (e.g. organizational commitment) is mostly shaped by thinking style (Hou, Gao, Wang, Li and Yu, 2011). Putting servant leadership (SL) as an important environmental factor in effecting prosocial service behaviour of frontline employees (Raub and Robert, 2010), this study center upon organizational service implementations.
This study proposes that SL influences frontline employees’ thinking styles, and that thinking style affects employees’ extra-role service behaviour. Since thinking style is a composition of many different cognitive styles, it is of interest to determine which of them most arouse extra-role service behaviour. Because, theoretically, behavioral outcomes might be thought as the reflections of their different styles or favoured ways of dealing with information (Messick, 1984; Zhang and Sternberg, 2005). These relationships have not been adequately studied in the service industry. It is important to clarify that whether cognitive styles may play a substantial role in answering why some employee go extra-mile even when transferred between tasks while others perform just the routine when placed in different setting.
On the other hand, it has long been apparent that contrasts in cognitive style may essentially influence the nature of interpersonal relationships (Allinson, Armstrong and Hayes, 2001). However previous studies fall short in reflecting composite relationships between people and peripheral factors in context of cognitive styles (Armstrong, Cools and Sadler-Smith, 2012). Therefore, to get a better understanding on the laden significance of thinking styles viewpoint for business and management settings, this study aims to provide firstly, review the theoretical literature on SL, TS and extra-role service behaviour and second an empirical analysis based on the data collected from customer-contact employees working in hotel firms is presented. Path analyses and regression analysis were used to carry out concurrent handling of the casual relationships between the constructs. The paper ends by drawing its fundamental conclusion, its constraints and possible directions for succeeding research.