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" Incivility is distinct from violence. Examples of workplace incivility include insulting comments, denigration of the target's work, spreading false rumors, social isolation, etc.
A summary of research conducted in Europe suggests that workplace incivility is common there. 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. 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.
Examples at the more subtle end of the spectrum include:
- 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.
- sending a nasty and demeaning note (hate mail)
- making accusations about professional competence
- undermining credibility in front of others
- overruling decisions without giving a reason
- disrupting meetings
- giving public reprimands
- talking about someone behind his or her back
- giving the silent treatment
- not giving credit where credit is due
- giving dirty looks or other negative eye contact
- insulting others.
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, 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.
- Counterproductive work behavior
- Human resource development
- Occupational health psychology
- Sexual harassment
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