Journal of Marketing Behavior > Vol 3 > Issue 1

Tell Me How You Treat Your Employees

Laura Marie Schons, University of Mannheim, Germany, , Sabrina Scheidler, Ruhr University of Bochum, Germany, , Jos Bartels, Tilburg University, The Netherlands,
Suggested Citation
Laura Marie Schons, Sabrina Scheidler and Jos Bartels (2017), "Tell Me How You Treat Your Employees", Journal of Marketing Behavior: Vol. 3: No. 1, pp 1-37.

Publication Date: 26 Oct 2017
© 2017 L. M. Schons, S. Scheidler, and J. Bartels
International business,  Organizational behavior,  Consumer behavior
Corporate social responsibility (CSR)CSR domainsCustomer responses to CSRCustomer-company-identificationEmployee supportIntrinsic attributions.


Login to download a free copy
In this article:
CSR Domains and Customer Perceptions 
Do Customers Care about How Companies Treat their Employees? 
Why Customers Care about How Companies Treat their Employees 
The Field Experiment 
General Discussion 
Appendix I 
Appendix II 


In communicating their good deeds to customers, most companies focus on company-external discretionary Corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities such as philanthropy. In contrast with this prevailing managerial practice, the present paper proposes that customers react less positively to communications on how companies allocate profits to company-external good causes and more positively to communications on how companies make their profits in the first place, i.e., how they treat their employees. A preliminary study among customers of an international retailer (N = 11,587) suggests that customers perceive the domain of employee CSR to be significantly more important than other CSR domains. Based on a qualitative study using focus-group interviews, the authors propose that employee support CSR messages elicit the highest intrinsic attributions among customers and enhance customer identification with the company. A large-scale field experiment of customers of the focal retailer (N = 5,586) delivers evidence that supports these propositions for four real CSR communication messages from different CSR domains. More specifically, the study results suggest that an employee support message elicits the most positive customer responses, not only by increasing attributions of the company's intrinsic motives for engaging in CSR but also by increasing customer identification with the company.