Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Debra A. Major

Committee Member

Richard N. Landers

Committee Member

Mona J. E. Danner


Research has established that customer sexual harassment (CSH) is a widespread and harmful workplace phenomenon. This dissertation consists of two studies on the topic. The first sought to operationalize a measure of coping with customer sexual harassment. In addition to three traditional factors of sexual harassment coping (i.e., external, internal, and social), Study 1 predicted that worker retaliation toward the customer would constitute an additional form of coping with CSH. The measure of coping was tested using a sample of 200 women customer service workers. Data were analyzed using factor analysis. As expected, retaliation was supported as a coping strategy, distinguishable from other forms of coping. Contrary to expectations, external coping broke into two factors (i.e., avoidance and reporting). Results supported a five-factor model of coping consisting of internal, avoidance, reporting, social, and retaliation strategies. The second study used confirmatory factor analysis and found additional support for the five-factor measurement model. Study 2 proposed a model in which client power and CSH severity moderate the relationship between coping and both posttraumatic stress and job-related emotional exhaustion. A total of 167 customer service women participated. Data were analyzed using hierarchical multiple regression. Social, retaliation, internal, and reporting strategies were positively related to posttraumatic stress. Internal and avoidance coping strategies were positively related to job-related emotional exhaustion. Social coping and power interacted to predict posttraumatic stress; the relationship between social coping and posttraumatic stress became increasingly negative as power decreased. Other interactions were nonsignificant. This study expanded the nomological network of retaliation toward the customer and broadens conceptualizations of coping to include retaliation. Future research calls for mixed (between- and within- subjects) research designs that capture coping over time. Practical implications are discussed.