The tipping point: mitigating the curvilinear effect of frontline service employee's perception of leadership humility on frontline service performance

Devin Bin, Keo Mony Sok, Phyra Sok, Sonariddh Mao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Prior studies have mainly advanced the understanding of a linear relationship between leadership humility and employee work outcomes, mediated and/or moderated by various individual, team and organizational variables. This study attempts to advance prior knowledge by investigating a potential curvilinear relationship between leadership humility and frontline service employee (FSE) performance and the role of FSE's psychological capital (PsyCap) in attenuating this curvilinear relationship. Design/methodology/approach: Survey data were drawn from a survey sample of 273 FSEs working in the hospitality industry of the United States of America. Hierarchical linear regression analysis was used to test the proposed hypotheses. Findings: The results uncover the existence of a tipping point in the relationship between leader humility and FSE performance; that is, humble behaviors expressed by leaders positively influence FSE performance up to the tipping point beyond which FSE performance starts to diminish. However, this curvilinear effect is attenuated when FSE's PsyCap is high but not when it is low. Practical implications: The findings provide service managers with insights into the importance of balancing their humble behaviors to yield optimal FSE performance. Furthermore, the paper points to the need for FSE's PsyCap cultivation within service firms so that FSEs are less dependent on their supervisors and can deliver highly satisfactory results. Originality/value: This research is one of the very first to investigate the curvilinear relationship between leader humility and FSE performance and the moderating role of PsyCap in attenuating the curvilinear effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-156
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Service Theory and Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2020


  • Curvilinear relationship
  • Frontline service employee
  • Leadership humility
  • Psychologicaacl capital

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