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Workplace incivility has been defined as "low-intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target....Uncivil behaviors are characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others"[1] Incivility is distinct from violence. Examples of workplace incivility include insulting comments, denigration of the target's work, spreading false rumors, social isolation, etc.

Research findings

A summary of research conducted in Europe suggests that workplace incivility is common there.[2] In research on more than 1000 U. S. civil service workers, Cortina, Magley, Williams, and Langhout (2001) found that more than 70% of the sample experienced workplace incivility in the past five years.[2] Compared to men, women were more exposed to incivility; incivility was associated with psychological distress and reduced job satisfaction. The reduction of workplace incivility is a fertile area for further occupational health psychology research.

Subtle/covert examples

Examples at the more subtle end of the spectrum include:[1]

  • giving somebody a "dirty look"
  • asking for input and then ignoring it
  • "forgetting" to share credit for a collaborative work.
  • speaking with a condescending tone.
  • interrupting others
  • not listening
  • waiting impatiently over someones desk to gain their attention.

Covert/overt examples

Somewhere between the extremes are numerous everyday examples of workplace rudeness and impropriety such as:[3]

Overt examples

More overt forms of incivility might include emotional tirades and losing one's temper.[3]

Workplace incivility v workplace bullying

Workplace bullying overlaps to some degree with workplace incivility but tends to encompass more intense and typically repeated acts of disregard and rudeness. Negative spirals of increasing incivility between organizational members can result in bullying,[4] but isolated acts of incivility are not conceptually bullying despite the apparent similarity in their form and content. In case of bullying, the intent of harm is less ambiguous, an unequal balance of power (both formal and informal) is more salient, and the target of bullying feels threatened, vulnerable and unable to defend himself or herself against negative recurring actions.[5][6]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Andersson, Lynne M.; Pearson, Christine M. (July 1999). "Tit for Tat? The Spiraling Effect of Incivility in the Workplace". The Academy of Management Review 24 (3): 452–71. doi:10.2307/259136.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cortina, Lilia M.; Magley, Vicki J.; Williams, Jill Hunter; Langhout, Regina Day (2001). "Incivility in the workplace: Incidence and impact". Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 6 (1): 64–80. doi:10.1037/1076-8998.6.1.64. PMID 11199258.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Johnson, Pamela R.; Indvik, Julie (2001). "Slings and arrows of rudeness: incivility in the workplace". Journal of Management Development 20: 705–14. doi:10.1108/EUM0000000005829.
  4. Beale, Diane (2001). "Monitoring bullying in the workplace". In Tehrani, Noreen. Building a culture of respect: managing bullying at work. London: Routledge. pp. 77–94. ISBN 978-0-415-24648-4.
  5. Rayner, Charlotte; Hoel, Helge; Cooper, Cary L. (2002). Workplace bullying: what we know, who is to blame, and what can we do?. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-24062-8.[page needed]
  6. Peyton, Pauline Rennie (2003). Dignity at work: eliminate bullying and create a positive working environment. London: Brunner-Routledge. ISBN 978-1-58391-238-6.[page needed]

Further reading



  • Bunk JA The role of appraisals, emotions, and coping in understanding experiences of workplace incivility (2007)
  • Gallus JA Assertive coping with workplace incivility (2005)
  • Kelley S Dishonorable treatment: workplace incivility, cultures of honor (2007)
  • Kirk BA The role of emotional self-efficacy and emotional intelligence in workplace incivility and workplace satisfaction (2006)
  • Lee AYH Will workplace incivility result in work-family spillover?, Singapore Management University. School of Social Sciences (2008)
  • Liptrot G Experiences of workplace incivility: outcomes and moderating influences of coping style, social support and negative affect (2005)
  • Loi NM Sex differences in workplace incivility and sexual harassment: (2006)
  • Martin R Development and validation of the scale of workplace incivility (2004)
  • Milam AC Individual differences and perceptions of workplace incivility (2006)
  • Penney LM Workplace incivility and counterproductive workplace behavior (CWB): what is the relationship and does personality play a role? (2002)
  • Polson SC Examining who and why: testing a moderated mediational model of workplace incivility (2008)
  • Preston M Creating conflict: antecedents of workplace incivility (2007)
  • Riley RP Coping with workplace incivility: effects on retaliatory behaviors (2005)
  • Schmitt CM Examining the relationship between social allergens, counterproductive work behaviors, and workplace incivility (2006)
  • Settles RL Understanding the presence of workplace incivility in K-12 schools: perceptions and responses from teachers (2008)
  • Simmons DC Organizational culture, workplace incivility, and turnover: (2008)
  • Smith DJ Workplace incivility and emotional labor in hospital nurses (2007)
  • Windhorst SM Workplace incivility and the low-status target (2006)

Academic papers


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