Does tipping facilitate sexual objectification? The effect of tips on sexual harassment of bar and restaurant servers
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Article publication date: 19 May 2020
Issue publication date: 18 May 2021
In many countries, service workers' (e.g. restaurant staff, bartenders) income depends highly on tips. Such workers are often female and targeted by sexual harassment. The purpose of this paper was to investigate whether the mode of compensation (tips vs. no tips) could play a causal role in the perceived legitimacy of sexual harassment.
In an experimental study (N = 161), the authors manipulated the source of income of a fictional female bartender (fixed income vs. smaller fixed income + tips) as well as whether she or her boss chose her (sexualized) clothing. The authors then asked male participants in an online survey to imagine being her customer and to form an impression of her.
The bartender was viewed as more sexualized, more manipulative and sexual behaviors toward her were perceived as more legitimate when she received tips. Further, the effect of tipping on the legitimacy of sexual behaviors was mediated by perceptions that she was manipulative. The target was perceived as more manipulative when she chose her clothes than not.
The study is an online scenario study and, as a consequence, assesses only judgments rather than actual behaviors.
Encouraging fixed salaries rather than tipping could reduce the occurrence of sexual harassment.
The present work suggests that tipping may play a detrimental role in service workers' well-being by contributing to an environment in which sexual harassment is perceived as legitimate.
To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study showing that mode of compensation can increase the objectification of workers and legitimize sexually objectifying behaviors toward them.
This work was supported in part by a grant from the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (FRS-FNRS). We thank Axel Cleeremans for inspiring it. Portions of this article were presented at the small group meeting of the European Association of Social Psychology on “Objectification: seeing and treating people as objects” in Rovereto, June 2015.
Klein, O., Arnal, C., Eagan, S., Bernard, P. and Gervais, S.J. (2021), "Does tipping facilitate sexual objectification? The effect of tips on sexual harassment of bar and restaurant servers", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 40 No. 4, pp. 448-460. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-04-2019-0127
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