Academic journal article Review of Business & Finance Studies

The Individual and Organizational Hazards of Loneliness on Salespeople

Academic journal article Review of Business & Finance Studies

The Individual and Organizational Hazards of Loneliness on Salespeople

Article excerpt


The selling process with its various antecedents and consequences is a common focus of research. Emotion-based conditions such as exhaustion and burnout are receiving growing attention due to their tremendous impact on salesperson behavior and performance. Yet, no research currently exists into the physical effects that salespeople are at risk for due to the demanding and isolated nature of their jobs. Such health consequences could subsequently have exceedingly negative organizational drawbacks. Given the importance of Sales to most businesses, a better understanding of these substantial threats is required.

JEL: M310, M51

KEYWORDS: Sales, Salesperson, Physical, Consequences, Turnover


Few occupations are as polarized as that of business-to-business salespeople. As organizational boundary spanners (Castleberry and Tanner, 2010), they get to spend company money, entertain current and prospective clients, travel, as well as possibly receiving a clothing allowance in addition to their regular compensation, which is probably higher than most of their co-workers. However, such privileges come with a price. Salespeople work under a level of pressure, stress, expectation, and demand that would be difficult for anyone without firsthand experience to fully comprehend and appreciate (Moncrief, Babakus, Cravens, and Johnston, 1997). The very nature of their work - establishing, developing, and maintaining professional working relationships with a wide range of personalities (both internally and externally) too often results in situations of role-oriented behavioral issues, emotional exhaustion, burnout, increased absenteeism, and a higher than average rate of turnover (Babakus, Cravens, Johnston, and Moncrief, 1999, Shepherd, Taschian, and Ridnour, 2011). Yet no discernable work exists into either the short- or long-term physical implications of a salesperson's workstyle. This is especially important given that one out of every nine Americans works in sales, according to the 2011 United States Labor Bureau statistics (Pink 2013).

Further, most of a salesperson's revenue-generating responsibilities typically involve them spending much time away from direct managerial supervision. Thus, employers may not be as fully aware as they could or should be about the health status of their front-line employees. Salespeople spend a significant portion of their time traveling, on the road, to meet with prospective, new, and established customers. This means time spent being away from professional and personal support bases, hearing rejection from the majority of their social interactions, engaging in poor diet and health habits, rushing to meetings, and obtaining as much market intelligence as possible. It may also mean time spent possibly abusing substances such as alcohol, drugs, or tobacco to stay awake, alert, and gregarious. This lack of immediate supervisory observation may even result in a temptation to practice unethical sales behaviors in an effort to make sales quotas or maybe simply enough commission to cover their monthly mortgage (Ferrell and Gresham, 1985).

Unfortunately, because of these same demands, many field salespeople might meet the criteria for being clinically depressed or chronically lonely (Cacioppo and Patrick, 2008). These particular psychological states contribute to serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more. They could cause irreparable damage, not only to the salesperson, but consequently to the overall organization. Many of the situations that lead to such conditions are either curable or avoidable if addressed directly by both the seller and his or her organization.

This paper presents a conceptual exploration of the existence of a relationship between the work-styles of salespeople, job-related chronic loneliness and serious health problems that could hamper the performance and effectiveness of a company's sales force and, consequently, the company itself. …

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