Incivility and Bullying – Annotated Bibliography

Selected books, research articles, and popular literature for those seeking deeper knowledge. Articles starting with * are particularly indicated for the NTU cohort. This edition of the bibliography has been revised to focus on articles with the greatest potential for practical application.

What is Incivility at Work?

*Sutton, R. I. (2007). The No Asshole Rule. New York: Business Plus.

This is a guidebook to coping with bullying and incivility at work, written for both leaders and followers. Suggestions include doing a reflection of how personal actions may contribute to the undesirable behavior; assessing behaviors in the organization as a whole (determining what is standard); asking questions when interviewing to try and detect people with whom you do not want to work; not bullying in response to bullying (you are only playing the bully’s game), developing coping strategies (e.g., limit exposure, practice emotional detachment, and cognitively re-frame the abuse as something you don’t care about), and finally, not allowing the bad behavior to spread to others. It introduces the concept of “TCA” (total cost of…) to consider the effect in organizations that are affected by uncivil or toxic conduct, as well as overhead costs through HR, legal, leadership time, etc.

*Pearson, C. M., Andersson, L. M., & Porath, C. L. (2005). Workplace incivility. In S. Fox & P. E. Spector (Eds.), Counterproductive Work Behavior: Investigations of Actor and Targets (pp. 177– 200). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

This chapter, part of a larger collection of work on “bad” or inappropriate workplace behavior, discusses workplace incivility and its impacts on both individuals and organizations. Workplace civility includes behaviors that help to preserve workplace norms (e.g., mutual respect). These include behaviors that are fundamental to positively connecting with others for building relationships and empathizing in the workplace. In contrast, incivility includes rude behaviors that are disrespectful toward others with or without intention. According to Pearson, Anderson, and Porath (2000, p. 125) “Incivility is mistreatment that may lead to disconnection, breach of relationships and erosion of empathy.” To put it into the work context, incivility violates workplace norms (e.g., mutual respect and trust), which leads to decreased cooperation and motivation in a work setting. Therefore, they argue, workplace incivility is not just a personal issue; it causes critical consequences for organizations regarding work patterns and effectiveness.

Cortina, L. M. (2008). Unseen injustice: Incivility as modern discrimination in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 33(1), 55-75.

Cortina defines uncivil behaviors as characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard and consideration for others. In other words, these Building Positive Aspects and Energy behaviors are considered as “low intensity deviant behaviors with ambiguous intention to harm the target individual(s), in violation of workplace norms of mutual respect” (Anderson & Pearson, 1999, p. 457).

*Cross, R., Baker, W., & Parker, A. (2003). What creates energy in organizations? MIT Sloan Management Review, 44(4), 51-57.

This MIT Sloan Management Review article shares a list of tips that leaders should consider to increase workplace energy. Given that an individual’s energy is critical for work-related attitudes and performance quality, leaders should be mindful to build positive workplace environments and interactions among individuals in a unit to develop and maintain the quality of energy at work.

Hobfoll, S. E. (2011). Conservation of resource caravans and engaged settings. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 84(1), 116-122.

This article highlights the importance of resources and energy for life including work. Hobfoll argues that all individuals have limited of personal resources and they should strive to obtain, retain, protect, and build those resources. There will be negative consequences (e.g., stress, malfunctioning physical systems) when individuals’ resources are threatened, lost, or not replenished appropriately. Resource depletion causes strain and poor functioning, so individuals should try to conserve resources and avoid resource losses. In the workplace, people use their personal resources to deal with work demands and job stressors and, as such, their resources become depleted over the course of a workday. This perspective suggests that leaders should try to build and create a positive workplace environment that promotes members’ resources and energy at work.

The Cost of Incivility at Work

*Sidle, S. D. (2009). Workplace incivility: How should employees and managers respond? Academy of Management Perspectives, 23(4), 88-89.

This is a short, accessible article written for a general audience that distills the article by Cortina & Magley (2009).

Pearson, C., & Porath, C. (2009). The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It. NY: Penguin.

This readable, easily searchable book contains three sections: incivility, the costs, and the solution. These lay out the concept of incivility, how it manifests and damages your culture, and what you can do about it. The authors provide several practical tips, such as lead by example and a zero-tolerance policy against incivility from your unit members.

*Cloke, K., & Goldsmith, J. (2011). Resolving Conclicts at Work: Ten Strategies for Everyone on the Job (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Joosey-Bass.

Conflict can come from many sources and this book addresses that broad range through 10 strategies you can use to minimize unhealthy conflict and turn disagreement into a positive source of energy for your unit. Strategy 7 focuses on the issue of difficult uncivil people and offers several suggestions, such as focus on the offending behaviors not the offending people, and not rewarding those difficult uncivil behaviors.

*Pearson, C. M., & Porath, C. L. (2005). On the nature, consequences and remedies of workplace incivility: No time for “nice”? Think again. The Academy of Management Executives, 19(1), 7-18.

This study found relationships among experiences of incivility, organizational values, and resources. The authors assert that incivility negatively influences targets, witnesses, and bystanders in the organization (e.g., leaders). They argue that employees that experience incivility in the work setting will see decreases in their work efforts, physical time on the job, productivity, and performance. In addition, continuous incivility without resolution may diminish job satisfaction and organizational loyalty.

Cortina, L. M., & Magley, V. J. (2009). Patterns and prociles of responses to incivility in the workplace. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 14(3), 272–288.

This three-study paper, including a sample of university employees, comprehensively investigates the response of unit members to incivility at work, showing that they use an array of strategies to cope with incivility, some with more negative consequences (detachment) than others (e.g., support seeking). Powerful individuals who engage in random incivility are the most difficult for group members in terms of coping. Most victims of incivility that have less power than the perpetrator do not directly confront the perpetrator nor do they report such incidents to management until the experience becomes extreme.

Sliter, M., Sliter, K., & Jex, S. (2012). The employee as a punching bag: The effect of multiple sources of incivility on employee withdrawal behavior and sales performance. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(1), 121-139.

The current study examined the impact of colleague incivility on withdrawal and performance outcomes. The results indicated that incivility experienced from colleagues has a negative impact on absenteeism and sales performance.

Incivility Online

Giumetti, G. W., McKibben, E. S., Hatcield, A. L., Schroeder, A. N., & Kowalski, R. M. (2012). Cyber incivility f work: The new age of interpersonal deviance. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(3), 148-154.

Incivility is not limited to in-person interactions. These behaviors can occur in the cyber world as well. Given the prevalence of computing technology and its nearly ubiquitous use as an intermediary of human interactions, supervisors and employees alike should be aware of this avenue of incivility at work. This study suggests that online incivility committed by the leader and experienced by followers saps the followers’ resources and makes them more likely to be absent and think about quitting. This effect is stronger for followers who are already emotionally fragile.

Rösner, L., Winter, S., & Krämer, N. C. (2016). Dangerous minds? Effects of uncivil online comments on aggressive cognitions, emotions, and behavior. Computers in Human Behavior, 58, 461-470.

This study suggests that online incivility in general can increase hostile thoughts of the reader even when those uncivil comments are not directed toward the reader. The frightening implication is that simply being around even a little bit of incivility can impact one’s thinking process.

Why Do People Display Incivility at Work?

Van Jaarsveld, D. D., Walker, D. D., & Skarlicki, D. P. (2010). The role of job demands and emotional exhaustion in the relationship between customer and employee incivility. Journal of Management, 36(6), 1486-1504.

This study assessed effects from outside the organization on individuals’ uncivil behaviors. In a survey study, the authors found that service employees who reported higher levels of uncivil treatment from customers engaged in higher levels of uncivil behaviors at work. Incivility can therefore “infect” your organization from outside sources.

Perception and Experiencing Incivility

Cortina, L. M., Kabat-Farr, D., Leskinen, E. A., Huerta, M., & Magley, V. J. (2013). Selective incivility as modern discrimination in organizations: Evidence and impact. Journal of Management, 39(6), 1579-1605.

This study examined whether individual differences have an impact on the perception of uncivil behaviors. By conducting a series of three studies, the authors found that women reported significantly more experiences of uncivil behaviors on the job than did men, and people of color reported more such experiences than whites. Examples of incivility in this study were not severe (compared to other aggressive behaviors, like racism) in their content. These findings suggest that there is a possibility that incivility may include some types of mild gender or racial discrimination. This idea also supports Sue, Capodilupo, and Torino’s (2007) research about “racial microaggressions,” which states that some minor forms of racist behaviors can be explained not only by race but also other factors.

How Negative Behaviors Are Contagious at Work

Barsade, S. G. (2002). The ripple effect: Emotional contagion and its incluence on group behavior. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47(4), 644-675.

In this paper, Barsade introduced a contagion model that explains individual social contagion process in small groups. According to this model, group members’ emotions, attitudes, and behaviors are contagious: they prompt other members’ subconscious primitive or conscious comparison processes, which in turn influence individual and team- level outcomes (e.g., performance, behaviors, cohesiveness).

Robinson, S. L., & O’Leary-Kelly, A. M. (1998). Monkey see, monkey do: The incluence of work groups on the antisocial behavior of employees. Academy of Management Journal, 41(6), 658-672.

Employing both social learning theory and social information processing theory, Robinson and O’Leary-Kelly (1998) conducted a cross-level field study to test antisocial behavior contagion within the group. They found that colleagues’ anti-social behaviors predicted individual anti-social behavior, also interacting with variance in group antisocial behavior. Their results suggest that colleagues’ negative behaviors at work are contagious to others in the work setting.

Porath, C. L., Foulk, T., & Erez, A. (2015). How incivility hijacks performance: It robs cognitive resources, increases dysfunctional behavior, and infects team dynamics and functioning. Organizational Dynamics, 44(4), 258-265.

This article discusses the cognitive impact of incivility at work, highlighting that incivility impacts memory and increases dysfunctional thinking. Many prior studies have investigated the emotional contagion process surrounding workplace incivility. This article highlights the cognitive contagion process that arises in the presence of incivility. Recommendations for managing workplace incivility are offered, such as recruiting civil individuals and coaching unit members for civility.

Tee, E. Y. J. (2015). The emotional link: Leadership and the role of implicit and explicit emotional contagion processes across multiple organizational levels. The Leadership Quarterly, 26, 654-670.

Leaders have a particular and strong influence on the functioning of groups and their members. Some have called leaders the “climate engineers.” Yet climate begins with the thoughts, feelings, and actions of individual group members. This comprehensive article reviews the emotional contagion process and the leader’s role in it. The author suggests that leaders exercise their influence one interaction at a time and warn that not all of the interaction occurs at a conscious level.

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