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Workplace incivility: A review of the literature and agenda for future research

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A growing body of research explores workplace incivility, defined as low-intensity deviant workplace behavior with an ambiguous intent to harm. In the 15 years since the theoretical introduction of the workplace incivility construct, research in this domain has taken off, albeit in a variety of directions. We review the extant body of research on workplace incivility and note the multitude of samples, sources, methodologies, and instrumentation used. In this review article, we provide an organized review of the extant body of work that encompasses three distinct types of incivility: experienced, witnessed, and instigated incivility. These three types of incivility serve as the foundation for a series of comprehensive models in which we integrate extant empirical research. In the last part of this review article, we suggest directions for future research that may contribute to this growing body of work. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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Workplace incivility: A review of the literature and
agenda for future research
PAULINE SCHILPZAND
1
*, IRENE E. DE PATER
2
AND AMIR EREZ
3
1
Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, U.S.A.
2
National University of Singapore, Singapore
3
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, U.S.A.
Summary A growing body of research explores workplace incivility, dened as low-intensity deviant workplace behav-
ior with an ambiguous intent to harm. In the 15 years since the theoretical introduction of the workplace in-
civility construct, research in this domain has taken off, albeit in a variety of directions. We review the extant
body of research on workplace incivility and note the multitude of samples, sources, methodologies, and in-
strumentation used. In this review article, we provide an organized review of the extant body of work that
encompasses three distinct types of incivility: experienced, witnessed, and instigated incivility. These three
types of incivility serve as the foundation for a series of comprehensive models in which we integrate extant
empirical research. In the last part of this review article, we suggest directions for future research that may
contribute to this growing body of work. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Keywords: incivility; review; workplace deviance
Dont discount the power of your words. The thought that they might cause unnecessary hurt or discomfort should inform
every conversation. P.M. Forni
In the last two decades, workplace negativity has emerged as a focal topic in the organization behavior literature.
Thousands of studies have investigated how various types of negative workplace behaviors inuence organization-
level, group-level, and individual-level outcomes. Originally, the literature mainly focused on topics such as work-
place aggression, deviance, bullying, and abusive supervision and predominately investigated the detrimental effects
of negative workplace behaviors on targetswork attitudes, work behaviors, and well-being. This research has shown
that targets of these negative workplace behaviors engage less in organizational citizenship behaviors (Dalal, 2005),
have higher turnover intentions (Chiaburu & Harrison, 2008), and experience more stress than their colleagues
(Bowling & Beehr, 2006). A relatively new addition to the domain of negative workplace behavior is workplace
incivility, dened as low-intensity deviant workplace behavior with an ambiguous intent to harm (Andersson & Pearson,
1999, p. 457). Examples of uncivil behavior include talking down to others, making demeaning remarks, and not listening
to somebody (Porath & Pearson, 2009).
Important denitional elements of workplace incivility that help to differentiate it from other negative interper-
sonal workplace behavioral constructs are its low intensity (aggression, violence, and bullying are more severe)
and its ambiguous (rather than overt or clearly diagnosable) intent to harm. The seemingly related constructs of
aggression, bullying, and abusive supervision are more overt, and therefore, targets of these behaviors more easily
interpret them as purposely intended. The intentionality of incivility is more difcult to discern. A third characteristic
that helps to differentiate incivility from negative leadership constructs such as abusive supervision is the specic
source of the negative conduct. Incivility may be enacted not only by individuals in managerial jobs or supervisory
roles but also by coworkers or customers. These distinctions are important, not only because incivility carves out a
specic space in the domain of negative workplace behavior, but primarily because these characteristics likely cause
*Correspondence to: Pauline Schilpzand, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, U.S.A. E-mail: pauline.schilpzand@bus.oregonstate.edu
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Received 24 October 2013
Revised 23 September 2014, Accepted 24 September 2014
Journal of Organizational Behavior, J. Organiz. Behav. 37, S57S88 (2016)
Published online 28 October 2014 in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/job.1976
The IRIOP Annual Review Issue
different cognitions, emotions, and behaviors in the targets of incivility when compared with recipients of other
negative workplace conduct. Moreover, it is also likely that the antecedents of incivility differ from those that incite
more severe and/or intentional negative workplace behaviors.
Workplace incivility is ubiquitous. It has been estimated that 98 percent of workers experience incivility, with 50
percent experiencing such conduct at least weekly (Porath & Pearson, 2013). The monetary cost of experiencing
incivility is estimated at $14,000 per employee annually, due to project delays and cognitive distraction from work
(Pearson & Porath, 2009). These statistics are alarming as they indicate that incivility affects many employees and
has a large nancial impact on the organizations they work for. Moreover, the human costs borne by employees who
are subjected to workplace incivility are quite severe. They may, for instance worry, try to avoid the instigator,
withdraw from work, and even take their frustrations out on customers (Porath & Pearson, 2013).
The alarming rate and costs of workplace incivility stimulated universities to develop and execute civility
campaigns (e.g., Oregon State University, Central Florida University, State University of New York, and Loyola
University), led to the startup of a grassroots movement that advocates civility in government, and motivated a
variety of organizations to emphasize civility in their organizations (e.g., Character Counts in Iowa, the Community
Foundation of Greater Des Moines, and the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa). In fact, the public domain recognized the
importance of civility as early as 1922 when the Fifth Avenue Bus Company in New York City requested (inspirational)
essays about public civility for an award of up to $150. However, even though the importance of civility has been
acknowledged a long time ago, workplace incivility currently is a pervasive and costly behavior that only quite
recently has become the topic of empirical research.
So far, research on the antecedents and broad consequences of workplace incivility as a whole has not been inte-
grated in a narrative review. One study that integrated some of the work on workplace incivility is Hershcoviss
(2011) paper that examines how various forms of workplace misbehavior relate to target outcomes. Our narrative
review is quite different from Hershcoviss work. She analyzed studies on experienced workplace incivility that used
the Workplace Incivility Scale (WIS; Cortina, Magley, Williams, & Langhout, 2001) and included job satisfaction,
turnover intent, and/or well-being as dependent variables. While the integrative model that Hershcovis (2011) pro-
poses is very helpful in synthesizing a broad extant body of work on the effects of various forms of experienced
workplace misbehavior, our narrative review aims to review all empirical research on workplace incivility that
has been conducted beginning in 1999 and including work through the year 2013. It includes all types of workplace
incivility workers may encounter, incorporates studies utilizing a broad range of methodologies and measurement
instruments, and employs a wide variety of antecedents, processes, and outcomes of workplace incivility.
We believe there is a strong need for an integrated review on workplace incivility at this moment in time, because
a substantive number of studies on workplace incivility have been conducted. Despite the progress that has been
made, the literature is moving forward without a strong theoretical foundation that guides this progress. Without
a strong theoretical direction, the work on incivility has not progressed cohesively. Instead, the materialized work
on incivility is quite fragmented. The broad and diverse extant body of work on incivility makes it difcult for
scholars and practitioners alike to integrate and understand the ndings on this negative workplace behavior. With-
out a clear understanding of the extant work, some potential incivility scholars may be dissuaded to conduct research
in this confusing domain, and practitioners may not be able to incorporate the accumulated knowledge in their or-
ganizational practices. One way to make a body of literature more accessible and clear is to conduct a quantitative
or meta-analytic review. However, as this narrative review will show, at present, the literature on workplace incivil-
ity is not cohesive enough to group the various studies together and test for overall effects. Hence, a meta-analytic
review would not provide sufcient and ne-grained insight into this broad literature. Another way to advance the
accessibility and clarity of a growing body of research is to provide a qualitative review of the literature. We believe
that the literature on workplace incivility would benet greatly from a narrative review that organizes, summarizes,
and analyzes the studies that have been published in the past 15 years.
In this qualitative review of the literature on workplace incivility, we provide an organized overview of the three
distinct, but interrelated areas of workplace incivility research, namely, experienced incivility,witnessed incivility,
and instigated incivility. Research on experienced incivility investigates the feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and other
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correlates of employees who are the target of uncivil workplace behavior. Research on witnessed incivility considers
these relationships for witnesses of workplace incivility, and research on instigated incivility investigates instigators
of workplace incivility directed toward employees and assesses its antecedents and outcomes. In this review article,
we assemble the studies that have been conducted in these distinct areas of research in order to provide a sorely
needed oversight of the literature on workplace incivility that may spur further research on workplace incivility
and provide insights to practitioners.
Background
In 1999, Andersson and Pearson introduced workplace incivility as a new domain within the research on negative
workplace behaviors in an inuential theoretical article in the Academy of Management Review. They posited that
uncivil workplace behaviors within ongoing coworker interactions would be reciprocated with more severe forms
of negativity. As a basic tenet of their model, Andersson and Pearson proposed that incivility is instigative by nature
as it incites reciprocity and negative overcompensation, which ultimately results in a spiral of increasing negativity
in workplace behaviors. In the past 15 years, many empirical studies have used the theoretical foundation of this new
construct of incivility but diverged from its theoretical underpinnings in signicant ways. First, researchers hardly
examined the veracity of the proposed spiral of negativity, and so far, there is no empirical evidence that supports
the escalating spiraling effect of incivility. Second, while the original theory conceptualized the spiral of incivility
as unfolding over time within existing coworker dyads, some incivility research has been conducted using episodic
or one-time interactions between individuals, decoupled from the theoretical propositions of the ongoing reciprocity
and escalation of negativity. Third, the original conceptualization of incivility posited incivility within existing
coworker ties and its effects to take place between coworker dyads. However, some incivility research has moved
beyond the coworker boundaries and investigated the correlates of customer incivility. Moreover, a sizable body
of research has also noted that the harmful effects extend beyond the dyad, namely to third-party observers. These
notable diversions from the original theory suggest that this research domain may benet from a new theoretical
framework to facilitate research in these novel directions. To help guide future theoretical development and
empirical study on this topic, a comprehensive and detailed review of the literature may prove helpful to scholars
(Rousseau, Manning, & Denyer, 2008). Given the costs organizations bear as a result of workplace incivility,
practitioners may also benet from this review, as it will provide a better understanding of this behavior and its
correlates, in terms of antecedents leading up to incivility and consequences of uncivil workplace behavior.
Review of the Empirical Literature
Our review aims to provide readers with a thorough overview of the state of incivility research and is structured into
two parts. In the rst part of the manuscript, we present the state of the workplace incivility literature by reviewing
the studies published from 1999 through 2013, noting the achieved breadth of the literature in countries, samples,
measurement, sources, topics, and time spans, along with some noted trends in the literature. This part of the review
analyzes the body of work as a whole to provide current and potential incivility scholars more clarity on the literature
as a whole. In the second part of the manuscript, we delineate the accumulated body of research from the inception
of the incivility construct in 1999 to the present and describe the research ndings that have been published during
these 15 years. This part of the review details the ndings of each of the extant papers on workplace incivility
published in journals in the eld of organizational behavior. We organize this part of the review around the three
types of incivility discussed in the literature (experienced incivility, witnessed incivility, and instigated incivility)
and integrate the accumulated work in these three distinct areas of study. Thus, while the rst part of the manuscript
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seeks to provide a global and holistic perspective on the workplace incivility literature, in the second part of the
paper, we provide more specic insights into the extant research on the three types of workplace incivility. We
conclude this review by identifying ways in which we see that this body of knowledge could be further developed.
To identify the relevant literature to include in our narrative review, we conducted searches, using the EBSCO
database with the keywords incivilityor rudeness,of articles published in academic journals in the eld of work
and organizational psychology. These searches yielded 94 empirical papers, published between 2001 and 2014. The
journals in which these empirical incivility or rudeness papers have been published include the Academy of Management
Journal,Basic and Applied Social Psychology,European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology,Group
and Organization Management,Human Performance,Human Resources Development Quarterly,Information and
Management,International Journal of Conict Management,Journal of Applied Psychology,Journal of Applied
Social Psychology,Journal of Business Ethics,Journal of Business and Psychology,Journal of Nursing Manage-
ment,Journal of Occupational Health Psychology,Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology,Jour-
nal of Organizational Behavior,Journal of Management,Journal of Vocational Behavior,Law & Social Inquiry,
Nursing Research,Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes,Organization Science, and Work and
Stress. We excluded 14 papers that did not present primary data, 24 papers that did not measure incivility or rudeness
(or confounded the measurement with another construct), and one paper that used a non-adult sample. We included
the remaining 55 papers in this narrative review.
A Decade and a Half of Progress
The past 15 years shows the take-offtrend of the new construct of workplace incivility. We can safely say that the
literature has gained momentum. It comprises a diverse body of work that represents a substantive group of authors
and reports effects of workplace incivility for samples from a wide diversity of countries, industries, and professions.
The body of work has now arrived at a point where it can be reviewed as a whole, and various studies can be inte-
grated to advance further research on this impactful organizational behavior. The integrated models synthesize the
empirical gains of this wide body of literature and will help to provide new paths forward for scholars to help expand
this important literature.
Growing body of work
To gain an understanding of the development of this literature, we tabulated the number of empirical studies on
workplace incivility published in journals in the eld of organizational behavior in Figure 1. Of note is that the rst
empirical study on workplace incivility was published 2 years after the introduction of the construct in 1999. A few
more empirical articles on workplace incivility were published in 2004 and 2005, and from 2007 onwards, organi-
zational journals published empirical articles on workplace incivility each year, with a fairly steep growth trend. The
year 2012 especially showed a large number of published papers.
Countries and samples
Although the majority of research on workplace incivility employs samples from the United States, the incivility
literature now includes non-US samples from Australia (Grifn, 2010; Martin & Hine, 2005; Kirk, Schutte & Hine,
2011), Canada (Leiter, Laschinger, Day, & Oore, 2011; Leiter, Price, & Spence Laschinger, 2010; Oore et al., 2010;
Spence Laschinger, Leiter, Day, & Gilin, 2009; Spence Laschinger, Leiter, Day, Gilin-Oore, & Mackinnon, 2012;
Van Jaarsveld, Walker & Skarlicki, 2010), China (Chen, Ferris, Kwan, Yan, Zhou, & Hong, 2013; Wu, Zhang, Chiu &
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He, 2013), Korea (Kim & Shapiro, 2008), New Zealand (Grifn, 2010), the Philippines (Scott, Restubog, &
Zagenczyk, 2013), Singapore (Lim & Lee, 2011; Lim & Teo, 2009), and the UK (Totterdell, Hershcovis & Niven,
2012). These studies show that workplace incivility is not restricted to one geographic area but is a phenomenon that
occurs worldwide and has negative consequences across the world. This implication is noteworthy, as national culture
differences are likely to inuence how phenomena are socially constructed(Rousseau et al., 2008) and how indi-
viduals perceive and respond to workplace incivility. For instance, it is possible that employees working in countries
with a cultural high level of power distance are less likely to consider being ignored by their supervisor to be an act of
uncivil conduct than employees working in countries with a cultural lower level of power distance. Yet, the extant
incivility literature shows that notwithstanding specic differences of what is considered uncivil behavior, the nega-
tive effects of incivility are not conned to certain cultures with specic characteristics but, instead, universally affect
employees around the globe. Of course, more research from various countries is needed. In an era of globalization, it
is important to broaden the geographies of research on incivility so that it has global relevance and provides insight
into how employees from diverse regions perceive and react to uncivil workplace behaviors (Kim & Shapiro, 2008).
The published work on workplace incivility represents employees from a wide variety of jobs and professions,
including federal court employees (Cortina et al., 2002; Miner-Rubino & Cortina, 2004), property management
company employees (Miner, Settles, & Pratt-Hyatt, 2012), bank tellers (Sliter, Jex, Wolford, & McInnerney,
2010; Sliter, Sliter, & Jex, 2012), manufacturing employees (Wu, Zhang, Chiu & He, 2013), healthcare workers
(Leiter et al., 2011; Leiter et al., 2010; Oore et al., 2010; Spence Laschinger et al., 2009; Spence Laschinger
et al., 2012; Trudel & Reio, 2011), university employees (Cortina & Magley, 2009; Sakurai & Jex, 2012), call center
employees (Scott, Restubog, & Zagenczyk, 2013), grocery store chain employees (Walsh, Magley, Reeves, Davies-
Schrils, Marmet & Gallus, 2012), retail employees (Kern & Grandey, 2009), members of the US Military, city
government and law enforcement agency employees (Cortina, Magley, Williams, & Langhout, 2001), attorneys
(Cortina & Magley, 2009), engineering rm employees (Adams & Webster, 2013), nancial services employees
(Lim & Teo, 2009), customer service employees (Diefendorff & Croyle, 2008), and pharmaceutical plant
employees (Blau, 2007). Thus, the extant incivility research also represents a wide array of participants from many
different industries and professions. The generalizability, or external validity, of workplace incivility ndings is
important, as not only national culture but also industry and organization cultures are likely to affect perceptions
Figure 1. Published empirical workplace incivility and rudeness papers
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of and reactions toward incivility. For example, being yelled at in a masculine organizational culture such as the
special operations division in the US Army might be considered quite normative, whereas being yelled at in more
feminine organization cultures such as organizations focused on providing early childhood education or pediatric
health care would probably be considered highly uncivil. Yet, so far, researchers consistently found that even in
cultures where individuals are supposed to be inoculated against rudeness because of the frequency with which they
experience such behaviors (i.e., customer service representatives), small incidents of incivility still affect them
(Rafaeli et al., 2012).
Measures
The development of instruments to measure incivility (e.g., Blau & Andersson, 2005; Cortina et al., 2001; Martin &
Hine, 2005) facilitated empirical research on workplace incivility, and studies using these instruments have revealed
various antecedents, processes, and outcomes of uncivil workplace behavior. The majority of research on incivility
has used the WIS (Cortina et al., 2001), a seven-item scale that asks participants to indicate the frequency with which
they encountered uncivil behavior from supervisors or coworkers during the past 5 years (e.g., Cortina & Magley,
2009; Lim, Cortina & Magley, 2008). Participants are asked how often superiors or coworkers put them down, were
demeaning to them, and excluded or ignored them. Recently, the WIS has been signicantly updated and now
comprises 12 items that inquire about experiences such as being interrupted, being targeted with angry
outbursts, or receiving hostile looks from coworkers or supervisors over the past year (Cortina, Kabat-Farr,
Leskinen, Huerta, & Magley, 2013). Martin and Hine (2005) developed and validated the Uncivil Workplace
Behavior Questionnaire, a 20-item scale that asks participants to report how frequently they experienced behaviors
(from an unspecied source) such as raised voices, eye-rolling, being interrupted, being excluded, and being
gossiped about at work during the past year. Kirk et al. (2011) used this scale to measure workplace incivility
in their work. Other researchers (e.g., Sliter, Sliter & Jex, 2012) have used incivility items from the Interpersonal
Conict at Work scale (Spector & Jex, 1998). Moreover, Porath and Pearson (2012) developed and used a
measure based on the denition and description of incivility (Andersson & Pearson, 1999). This measure assesses
perceived incivility and asks participants to indicate the extent to which instigators of uncivil conduct were rude,
disrespectful, insensitive, and insulting to them. Finally, Penney and Spector (2005) constructed and used an
incivility measure by combining 43 incivility items from three different instruments: the WIS (Cortina et al.,
2001), the Leymann Inventory of Psychological Terror (Leymann, 1990), and the Workplace Aggression
Research Questionnaire (Neuman & Keashly, 2002).
Even though most researchers have used the WIS (Cortina et al., 2001), some have used reduced or adapted
versions (e.g., Blau & Andersson, 2005; Grifn, 2010; Lim & Lee, 2005; Oore et al., 2010). For example,
Miner-Rubino and Reed (2010) adapted the WIS to apply to the workgroup context, and Grifn (2010) aggregated
the scale to be indicative of the organization level of workplace incivility. Blau and Andersson (2005) adapted the
WIS to measure instigated incivility rather than experienced incivility by ippingsome of the items. Others used
abbreviated versions of this ippedversion of the WIS (e.g., Leiter et al., 2010). Miner-Rubino and Cortina (2004)
adapted the WIS to measure incivility toward women specically, and Meier and Spector (2013) abbreviated the
WIS to study incivility longitudinally. Thus, even integrating and making sense of research that only utilized the
WISmaybedifcult, as this instrument is so divergently used.
Research in the broad incivility domain has inspired authors to develop domain-specic workplace incivility mea-
sures. For example, Walsh et al. (2012) developed the Norms for Civility scale to measure civility in workgroups,
and Wilson and Holmvall (2013) developed the Incivility from Customers scale to specically capture the effects
of customer-instigated incivility. Some scholars have also used Burneld, Clark, Devendorf, and Jexs (2004) still
unpublished Customer Incivility Scale (e.g., Sliter et al, 2010). Lim and Teo (2009) developed the Cyber Incivility
Scale to specically study uncivil behavior in online communication, and Miner et al. (2012) adapted Harrells
(1994) Daily Racist Hassles scale into a Gendered Incivility scale.
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Other incivility scholars have, rather than asking participants to respond to survey questions about workplace in-
civility, chosen experimental designs to test their hypotheses. These authors expose participants to rude or uncivil
behaviors of a confederate and test participantsreactions after experiencing or witnessing an uncivil encounter with
the confederate (e.g., Porath & Erez, 2007, 2009).
Yet other scholars asked participants to remember or imagine real or ctional uncivil encounters to elicit and test
effects of workplace incivility. For example, Diefendorff and Croyle (2008) asked customer service employees to
imagine a routine customer interaction and to then imagine that the customer behaved uncivilly. Similarly, Porath
and Pearson (2012) asked participants to think about an uncivil workplace interaction they had experienced in the
past. Porath et al. (2008) and Kim and Shapiro (2008) asked study participants to read a scenario that included an
uncivil interaction condition, and Montgomery, Kane, and Vance (2004) presented participants with video segments
that showed uncivil conduct. Some researchers studied the effects of incivility at various points in time. For exam-
ple, Totterdell et al. (2012) employed a diary methodology to study the effects of workplace incivility over time, and
Meier and Spector (2013) studied incivility longitudinally over a ve-wave 8-month time frame. Cortina et al.
(2002) chose a qualitative interview methodology to begin to understand the content of the experience of workplace
incivility and targetsreactions to this experience. Thus, overall, we see no consensus on methods and measurements
in the workplace incivility domain; instead, researchers use a wide array of methods and instruments. The use of
such a wide diversity of methods and measures has made the body of research on incivility as a whole difcult to
interpret and analyze (e.g., in meta-analytic review or comparisons between studies).
While the divergence of measures is likely a hindrance to the accumulated knowledge, the divergence of methods
may actually be an asset to this growing body of work. The practice of converging operations(Cronbach, 1960;
Cronbach & Meehl, 1955) notes that relationships among constructs that are demonstrated using diverse research
operations (e.g., behavioral, psychological, cognitive, neuropsychological, and self-report) are especially convincing
and meaningful, because it demonstrates that ndings are not conned by one mere operationalization. The use of
only one specic methodology may be too broad or insufciently inclusive to capture the constructs true domain.
In the eld of workplace incivility, researchers applied the important notion of convergence of operations (different
methods, measures, and operationalizations) to show the effects of incivility, which makes the credibility of work-
place incivility ndings especially persuasive.
Other domains that assess incivility (e.g., the group norm level and the organizational level) also show effects on
theory-driven outcome variables, such as job satisfaction (Walsh et al., 2012) and turnover intentions (Grifn, 2010;
Walsh et al., 2012). Moreover, other methodologies for studying consequences of uncivil conduct, such as by exper-
imental manipulation or as captured by the critical incident methodology showed relationships with theoretically
relevant outcomes, such as performance (Giumetti, Hateld, Scisco, Schroeder, Muth, & Kowalski, 2013; Porath
& Erez, 2007), retaliation (Kim & Shapiro, 2008), and helpfulness (Porath & Erez, 2007). In sum, we believe that
the study of incivility with many different methodologies that converge to indicate the antecedents and impacts of
incivility in a wide array of domains represents a strength of this literature.
An infrequently employed research methodology for workplace incivility is qualitative or interview-based
inquiry. While some authors have provided illustrative quotes from research participants to support their hypothesis
or proposition development (e.g., Cameron & Webster, 2011; Cortina, 2008), the grounded theory approach of
inductively generating theory based on participant accounts has been under-employed in this domain (see Cortina
et al., 2002, for an exception). A grounded theory approach may be especially helpful to uncover the complexity
of the cognitive experiences targets and witnesses live through as they begin to make sense of this ambiguous
conduct. Moreover, an inductive qualitative approach may provide valuable insight into perpetratorsmotivations
to instigate workplace incivility.
A research methodology that thus far has not been used to study incivility and could be an important addition to
the research on workplace incivility is that of implicit measures. The use of implicit methods has gained popularity
in recent years across a multitude of domains (e.g., diversity, job attitudes, and leadership). An advantage of implicit
measures is that they do not rely on introspection (Isen & Erez 2007) or participantsaccurate and full awareness of
how or why they feel, think, react, or behave in a certain way. Implicit measures may be especially helpful to further
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incivility research because the impact of incivility may span far beyond what targets or witnesses may introspec-
tively realize or convey. This is especially relevant because research (Porath & Erez, 2007) has indicated that
experienced incivility inuences cognitions and behaviors that the targets may not have consciously identied.
Reference Periods
Incivility researchers examined incivility from a wide variety of reference periods. In fact, effects of incivility have
been assessed immediately following uncivil or rude treatment and up to 5 years after the experience of incivility.
The WIS asks participants to report the frequency with which they experienced incivility during the past 5 years,
and several studies have used this reference period (e.g., Lim & Lee, 2011; Miner-Rubino & Cortina, 2004).
However, the reference period participants are asked to consider when reporting incivility differs widely among
the extant studies. For example, Chen et al. (2013), Cortina et al. (2001), Taylor, Bedeian, and Kluemper (2012),
Walsh et al. (2012), and Ferguson (2012) ask for its frequency over the past year. Wilson and Holmvall (2013)
ask about incivility experiences over the past 6 months. Blau (2007) inquires about incivility over the past 4 months,
while Scott et al. (2013) ask about incivility during the past 3 months. Sakurai and Jex (2012), Leiter et al. (2011),
Sliter et al. (2012), and Van Jaarsveld et al. (2010) asked about incivility over the past month, while Kern and
Grandey (2009) inquire about uncivil incidents that happened during the past 2 weeks. Still others indicate no
reference period for the incivility questions (e.g., Grifn, 2010; Sliter et al., 2010).
Usually, researchers decide on a specic reference period based on the frequency of the event that is being rated or
considered (Igou, Bless, & Schwarz, 2002; Schaeffer & Presser, 2003). For infrequent events, researchers prefer a
longer reference period in order to minimize the number of participants who report nonoccurrence of the event in
that time frame. For frequent events, researchers often choose a shorter reference period because study participants
may have forgotten occurrences of frequent experiences that happened in the more distal past (Igou et al., 2002).
Hence, it is noteworthy that there is a lack of agreement regarding the most appropriate reference period for measur-
ing incivility. This is problematic not only because it makes it difcult to integrate and interpret the research ndings
as a whole but also because the reference period may profoundly inuence how participants interpret the questions
asked. That is, the reference period may prime the types and severity of the experiences participants recollect, which,
in turn, is also likely to inuence participantsperceptions of the effects that these incidents had on variables of in-
terest (Schaeffer & Presser, 2003). Indeed, more proximal incivility experiences that may not have been cognitively
understood or affectively resolved may seem much more impactful than instances that happened years ago and have
been cognitively and emotionally processed by targets of incivility.
A further shortcoming of the varying reference periods in this research domain is that participants may use the
indicated reference period to determine the intended meaning of the question. For example, respondents who are
asked to answer the question How often have your superiors or coworkers made demeaning or derogatory remarks
about you todaymay infer that the question refers to relatively frequent incidents, because otherwise it would not
make sense to focus on a single day. In contrast, the question During the past 5 years, how often have your
superiors or coworkers made demeaning or derogatory remarks about youmay lead respondents to assume that
the researchers are interested in relatively rare and more severe or noteworthy incidences. Why else would the
researcher ask them about occurrences during such a long period (Igou et al., 2002)?
Research on anger experiences supports the idea that the reference period affects respondentsinterpretations of
the questions they are asked to answer. For instance, Winkielman, Knäuper, and Schwarz (1998) showed that
participants who answered the question How frequently do you get angry during a typical yearassumed that
the question referred to more intense and less frequent anger experiences than participants who answered the
question How frequent do you get angry during a typical week.Hence, the use of different reference periods might
severely inuence research results and hinder the interpretation and integration of the existing body of work on
workplace incivility.
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We also assert that more research investigating incivility as a discrete event is needed. The majority of workplace
incivility research focuses on uncivil incidents that took place during a period of months to years. This research then
examines the impact of incivility on employeeslonger-term attitudes and behaviors. However, incivility episodes
also have important immediate or short-term consequences. Scholars employing a scenario or experimental method-
ology to study incivility (e.g., Porath & Erez, 2007; 2009) study the immediate effects of uncivil behavior, which
provides insight into its short-term effects. Research that focuses on short-term effects of workplace incivility is
important as it can improve knowledge of causal effects within this research domain and thus create more precise
theory (Mitchell & James, 2001). Indeed, the immediate effects of workplace incivility on targetsand witnesses
mood or cognitive memory (Porath & Erez, 2007, 2009) may not linger into the more distal future.
Sources of incivility in the workplace: supervisors, coworkers, and customers
The majority of research on incivility lumps incivility from supervisors and coworkers (and sometimes even cus-
tomers) together, without differentiating the potentially diverse impact of each source. Indeed, even though the
WIS (Cortina et al., 2001), the most frequently used instrument to study workplace incivility, does not include
customer-instigated incivility, it does not separate supervisor-initiated from coworker-initiated incivility. However,
some researchers do specically assess both coworker-instigated and supervisor-instigated incivility. For instance,
Leiter et al. (2010) examined generational differences in experiencing incivility perpetrated separately by supervi-
sors and coworkers, and three studies examined the effectiveness of civility interventions on the occurrence of
supervisor and coworker incivility separately (Leiter et al., 2011, 2012; Spence Laschinger et al., 2012). These latter
studies showed that supervisor but not coworker incivility decreased after the intervention took place. However,
these studies do not compare the outcomes of incivility from these different sources. Hence, we currently know
relatively little about whether incivility from different sources (supervisor, coworker, and customer) would lead to
different outcomes, even though status and role differentials may in fact inuence the severity and content of the
impact and the manner in which targets react to the uncivil incident (Hershcovis & Barling, 2010).
It is, for instance, likely that supervisory uncivil behavior is more harmful than coworker incivility, because em-
ployees who are targets of such behaviors depend on their supervisors for evaluations and rewards. Targets of super-
visory incivility may, therefore, assume that their supervisors uncivil behaviors may generalize and bring along other
unfavorable events. In a similar vein, coworker incivility may be more harmful than customer incivility, because em-
ployees may encounter an uncivil customer only once but will have to face an uncivil coworker over and over again.
Indirect support for some of these expectations comes from a recent meta-analysis on the outcomes of workplace
aggression (in the forms of workplace bullying, mobbing, social undermining, aggression, victimization, interper-
sonal conict, tyranny, abusive supervision, and workplace incivility) from different perpetrators (Hershcovis &
Barling, 2010). Specically, this meta-analysis showed that workplace aggression perpetrated by a supervisor has
stronger effects than coworker-perpetrated aggression on job satisfaction, affective commitment, turnover intent,
health, organizational deviance, and job performance. Moreover, coworker aggression had a stronger impact on
job satisfaction, affective commitment, turnover intent, interpersonal deviance, and physical well-being than aggres-
sion perpetrated by outsiders. Unfortunately, only three of the empirical articles included in this meta-analysis report
relationships of workplace incivility with the outcome variables. Hence, assuming that incivility is different from
other forms of aggressive behavior, this study only provides limited insight into the role of sources on the outcomes
of experienced incivility. In addition to the meta-analytic ndings, several research endeavors have addressed the
effects of uncivil conduct from different sources. For example, Porath and Erez (2007) showed that the participants
who either experienced an uncivil incident from an authority gure or a stranger or only imagined an uncivil incident
all had lower task and creative performance than participants in the control condition. While these effects were found
in different studies using different samples and thus the relative effect sizes cannot be directly compared, this study
indicates that regardless of source, incivility experiences negatively impacted various organizationally relevant out-
comes. In a later study, Porath and Erez (2009) showed that participants who witnessed either one of their peers or an
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authority gure behaving in an uncivil manner had lower performance on routine and creative tasks, engaged less in
citizenship behaviors, and had higher dysfunctional ideation than participants in the control condition. In contrast to
the Porath and Erez studies, which did not nd that the source of incivility made much of a difference, other studies
found that the source of incivility did matter. Work by Spence Laschinger et al. (2009) showed that both supervisor
and coworker incivility explained incremental variance in employeesjob satisfaction, commitment, and turnover
intentions. Oore et al. (2010) examined the differential effects of workplace incivility from supervisors and co-
workers on the relationship between work stressors and strain. The results indicated that coworker but not
supervisor incivility strengthened the relationships between employeesworkload and mental health and job control
and mental health and that supervisor but not coworker incivility strengthened the relationship between workload
and physical health. Using a student sample in an educational setting, Barker Caza and Cortina (2007) separated
out the effects of experienced lateral incivility (by a fellow student) and top-down incivility (by a faculty, staff, or
administration member) and found that top-down incivility has a stronger impact on perceived injustice than lateral
incivility. Grifn (2010) assessed coworker incivility and the higher-level construct incivility environmentand
found unique effects of both sources of incivility on intent to remain with the organization. Perhaps, the source of
incivility makes a difference with regard to attitudes and intentions, but not with regard to actual behaviors and
performance as investigated in the Porath and Erez (2007, 2009) studies because the processes by which incivility
affects attitudes and behaviors may be different. Future research is needed in order to clarify this issue.
Although these studies have assessed incivility stemming from different sources, other scholars have chosen to
study just one group of perpetrators. For example, Van Jaarsveld et al. (2010) examined the consequences of cus-
tomer incivility on call center workers, and Sliter et al. (2010) explored bank tellersreactions to customer incivility.
Lim and Teo (2009) focused on consequences of supervisorsuncivil cyber behaviors toward their employees, and Kim
and Shapiro (2008) manipulated supervisory incivility in a scenario presented to participants in order to gauge partici-
pantsreactions. Scott et al. (2013) examined reactions to coworkers who instigated coworker incivility, Totterdell et al.
(2012) captured the effects of witnessing uncivil coworker behaviors, and Ferguson (2012) and Sakurai and Jex (2012)
studied the effects of experiencing coworker incivility. Thus, while incivility can stem from and may be directed toward
various sources, we currently do not have a thorough understanding of the differences in effects and effect sizes when
the sources of incivility vary. Consequently, the work on incivility would benet from learning about the correlates,
antecedents, processes, and outcomes of incivility by source. Such research would illuminate potential source
differences in these realms. Moreover, accumulated ndings, varied by source, would allow for the quantitative or
meta-analytic review of the effect sizes among sources, in turn allowing for source comparisons.
Having analyzed the body of work amassed on workplace incivility as a whole, in the next part of the manuscript,
we outline the three types of incivility (experienced, witnessed, and instigated) and discuss the ndings for these
three distinct bodies of work that largely comprise the extant workplace incivility research.
Types of Incivility: Experienced, Witnessed, and Instigated
Our review of the incivility literature clearly shows that the uncivil experiences that have been studied vary greatly.
Not only do incivility incidents differ with regard to their source (i.e., supervisor, coworker, or customer), they also
differ with regard to the type of incivility (i.e., experienced, witnessed, or instigated). In addition, studies of incivility
vary by method of inquiry (i.e., critical incidents, questionnaires, experimental research, diary studies, and qualita-
tive inquiry) and by time frame (i.e., retrospective, cross-sectional, and longitudinal). This diversity of research
makes incivility ndings difcult to interpret. For researchers, the lack of consistent ndings may conceal gaps in
the literature and makes it difcult to identify avenues for future research. For practitioners, the lack of comprehen-
sive ndings may prevent taking of adequate measures to diminish uncivil conduct in their organizations. To provide
an accessible overview of the current state of incivility research, we will next summarize the research ndings for each
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of the types of incivility. Specically, we will provide an outline, in narrative, table, and gure forms, of the ndings that
have amassed about experienced, witnessed, and instigated incivility to provide this much needed clarity.
Experienced incivility
Most research on incivility focuses on experienced incivility (45 out of 55 papers) and, more specically, on the
various outcomes for targets of uncivil conduct. Some researchers have sought to study what makes one a likely
target of incivility. We will start this section with a description of the various antecedents of experienced incivility
that have been studied. Thereafter, we will describe the various consequences of experienced incivility.
Antecedents of experienced incivility
Antecedents to experienced incivility include dispositional, behavioral, and contextual aspects that predict experiencing un-
civil workplace conduct. After that, we describe the consequences of uncivil experiences for the targets of uncivil conduct.
Dispositional antecedents of experienced incivility. Some studies have examined diversity or dispositional target
attributes to learn about antecedents of receiving rude treatment. These studies have shown that the individual
difference variables that are associated with more frequent experiences of workplace incivility include being a racial
minority (Cortina, Kabat-Farr, Leskinen, Huerta, & Magley, 2013), younger in age (Lim & Lee, 2011), generation X
versus belonging to the baby boomer generation (Leiter et al., 2010), adipose (Sliter et al., 2012a), disagreeable, and
neurotic (Milam, Spitzmueller, & Penney, 2009). Interestingly, research that examines the association between
gender and experiencing incivility shows contradictory ndings. Lim and Lee (2011) found that men report they
experience incivility in greater frequency than women, whereas Cortina et al. (2001) and Cortina et al. (2013) found
that women report more uncivil encounters than men.
Behavioral antecedents of experienced incivility. Other scholars have sought to study which target behaviors make
individuals more likely to become the target of othersincivility or which situational characteristics might reduce
experienced incivility. The target behaviors that have been found to predict experienced incivility include the
targets organizational and interpersonal counterproductive behavior (Meier & Spector, 2013) and having a high
dominating or a low integrating conict management style (Trudel & Reio, 2011).
Situational antecedents of experienced incivility. Situational variables that reduce experienced incivility include
higher workgroup norms for civility (Walsh et al., 2012) and experiencing low role stressors (Taylor & Kluemper,
2012). Given the high prevalence and costs of workplace incivility, it is noteworthy that three studies found support
for the effectiveness of a team-based intervention for reducing supervisor-perpetrated (but not coworker-perpetrated)
incivility (Leiter et al., 2011, 2012; Spence Laschinger et al., 2012). This so-called Civility, Respect, and Engage-
ment in the Workforce intervention has been initiated by the Veterans Health Administration in the United States
and was aimed to increase civility in the workplace (Osatuke, Moore, Ward, Dyrenforth, & Belton, 2009) through
supporting workgroups in identifying their strengths and weaknesses regarding civil workplace behaviors, designing
their own interventions, and implementing these interventions in their work setting.
While the aforementioned studies shed some light on the antecedents of experienced workplace incivility, this
body of work is quite small and mainly focuses on targetsdemographics and behaviors, and on situational variables.
Thus, many more studies are needed in this area of studies in order to replicate and verify these results. In addition,
there are likely many other unexplored relevant target attributes, such as targetsskills or capabilities or experienced
favoritism, which may be potential antecedents of experienced incivility. For example, we would expect that being
favored by an authority gure would invite rudeness by others in ones work setting, as spurred by feelings of
unfairness and envy. Alternatively, targetslow competence might invite incivility by others, especially if others
success is inuenced by the less competent target.
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Consequences for targets of uncivil experiences
Most empirical studies on experienced workplace incivility have focused on the consequences of experiencing
incivility in the workplace. Experiencing workplace incivility is found to be related to various affective, attitudinal,
cognitive, and behavioral outcomes for targets.
Affective outcomes of experienced incivility. Some of the general affective outcomes for targets of incivility include
heightened emotionality (Bunk & Magley, 2013), emotional labor (Adams & Webster, 2013; Sliter et al., 2010),
emotional exhaustion (Kern & Grandey, 2009; Sliter et al., 2010), depression (Lim & Lee, 2011; Miner et al.,
2010), negative emotions (Kim & Shapiro, 2008; Sakurai & Jex, 2012), negative affect and lower positive affect
(Giumetti et al., 2013), and lower affective trust (Cameron & Webster, 2011). Targets of incivility also report lower
levels of energy (Giumetti et al., 2013) and increased levels of stress (Adams & Webster, 2013; Cortina et al., 2001;
Kern & Grandey, 2009; Lim & Cortina, 2005; Miner et al., 2010). Specic emotional reactions of targets of
workplace incivility include increased anger, fear, and sadness (Porath & Pearson, 2012) and reduced optimism
(Bunk & Magley, 2013). To boot, recent work has shown that workplace incivility not only affects employees at
work but also affects targetspersonal lives, as its experience is linked with decreased levels of well-being (Cortina
et al., 2001; Lim & Cortina, 2005, Lim et al., 2008) and marital satisfaction (Ferguson, 2012) and increased levels of
workfamily conict (Ferguson, 2012; Lim & Lee, 2011).
Attitudinal outcomes of experienced incivility. Incivility also inuences targetsattitudes, in both the work and life do-
mains. For example, targets of uncivil conduct are less committed to their organization (Lim & Teo, 2009), are less motivated
(Sakurai & Jex, 2012), and have lower satisfaction with their supervisors and coworkers (Bunk & Magley, 2013), their job
(Cortina et al., 2001; Lim & Cortina, 2005; Lim et al., 2008; Miner-Rubino & Reed, 2010; Wilson & Holmvall, 2013), and
their life (Lim & Cortina, 2005; Miner et al., 2010) than employees who do not experience incivility at work.
Cognitive outcomes of experienced incivility. In addition to affective and attitudinal reactions, targets of incivility
also have cognitive reactions to their uncivil experiences. Specically, uncivil encounters lower targetsperceived
fairness (Lim & Lee, 2011) and task-related memory recall (Porath & Erez, 2007).
Behavioral outcomes of experienced incivility. Experienced incivility is also associated with a set of counterproduc-
tive behavioral responses in its targets. Research has indicated, for example, that experienced incivility incites tar-
gets to reciprocate (Bunk & Magley, 2013) and to engage in retaliatory (Kim & Shapiro, 2008), deviant (Lim & Teo,
2009), and counterproductive (Penney & Spector, 2005) behaviors at work. Moreover, employees who are targets of
workplace incivility also show decrements in various performance-related domains, such as task performance (Chen
et al., 2013; Giumetti et al., 2013; Porath & Erez, 2007; Sliter et al., 2012b), creativity (Porath & Erez, 2007), and
citizenship behavior (Porath & Erez, 2007; Taylor et al., 2012). Another behavioral reaction found in targets of un-
civil behavior is withdrawal from work. Research has shown that experienced incivility relates to decreased work
engagement (Chen et al., 2013), decreased career salience (Lim & Teo, 2009), and heightened levels of
absenteeism (Sliter et al., 2012), withdrawal behavior (Cortina et al., 2001; Lim & Corina, 2005; Matin & Hine,
2005), turnover intentions (Grifn, 2010; Lim et al., 2008; Miner-Rubino & Reed, 2010; Wilson & Holmvall,
2013), and organizational exit (Porath & Pearson, 2012).
The preceding summary shows that the extant research on experienced workplace incivility has addressed a wide
array of outcomes. Work on the outcomes of experienced workplace incivility may be expanded to investigate more
qualiers, including mediators, moderators, and boundary conditions of the relationships between workplace incivil-
ity and outcomes. Future research may examine conditions that attenuate or strengthen the effects of experienced
incivility. It is possible, for instance, that employees who have previously worked in a rude work environment
may not be as affected by workplace incivility as their peers who have had little previous rudeness experiences. It
is also conceivable that social support from supervisors and coworkers could buffer the negative effects of customer
incivility on targetsemotions, cognitions, and behaviors.
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Please see Table 1 for an extensive overview of the studies on experienced incivility. This table provides the sources
of the uncivil conduct, the samples employed, and the study ndings. The top half of Table 1 lists research that exam-
ined antecedents of experienced incivility; the second part of the table lists studies that examined outcomes of experi-
enced incivility. Figure 2 gives a graphical representation of the antecedents and outcomes of experienced incivility.
Witnessed incivility
Compared with the number of empirical papers that address experienced incivility (45 out of 55), the number of
studies that examined witnessed workplace incivility is rather small (4 papers out of 55). The empirical papers that
have been published in this realm convey that female witnesses of uncivil incidents consider these incidents as more
inappropriate than their male counterparts (Montgomery et al., 2004). Another study showed that witnessing incivil-
ity results in higher levels of witnessesnegative affect, reduces their task performance, creative performance, and
helpfulness toward others, and increases dysfunctional ideation (Porath & Erez, 2009). Totterdell et al. (2012) found
not only that witnessing incivility relates to negative affect but also that incivility predicts emotional exhaustion, es-
pecially when the witness took the targets perspective and when he or she directly witnessed rather than heard about
the uncivil incident. The fourth study on witnessed incivility has shown that individuals who witness uncivil behav-
ior toward women report lower levels of health satisfaction and display more work withdrawal, especially in work
groups with higher proportions of male group members (Miner-Rubino & Cortina, 2004).
The topic of witnessed incivility may be classied as a developing area of study with many gaps and opportunities
for future research. Perhaps research in this domain could seek to investigate antecedents to witnessed incivility. We
may expect that interdependent self-managed teams working on highly innovative endeavors might frequently wit-
ness incivility behavior. We may expect such a team setting to be an especially incivility-prone environment given
that better solutions in innovative work are typically not clear and the team needs to reach a decision rather than
merely implement a dictated choice. These debates may spike incivility behaviors. Moreover, perhaps extraversion,
especially the sociability factor, would predict witnessing incivility behavior given that sociable extraverts might
nd themselves more frequently present in social interaction events.
Please see Table 2 for an overview of the studies on witnessed incivility. This table provides the sources of the
uncivil conduct, the samples employed, and the study ndings. Figure 3 provides a graphical representation of
the effects of witnessing rudeness.
Instigated incivility
As noted, the work on instigated incivility studies the perpetrators of uncivil conduct as the focal entity of study and
investigates what prompts employees to act uncivilly and what the outcomes are for these instigators. The literature
on instigated workplace incivility is also substantially smaller (8 papers out of 55) than that on experienced incivility
(45 papers out of 55) and focuses on perpetratorscharacteristics, attitudes, perceptions, and situational variables as
antecedents of perpetratorsuncivil conduct. Of note is that one study examined the outcomes of uncivil encounters
for the perpetrators themselves.
Antecedents of perpetrating incivility
Characteristics of the perpetrator
Research has indicated that perpetrator characteristics such as higher levels of power (Cortina et al., 2001), trait
anger (Meier & Semmer, 2013), and having a dominating conict management style or a non-integrative conict
management style (Trudel & Reio, 2011) positively relate to instigated incivility.
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Table 1. Experienced incivilityantecedents and outcomes
Study Sample Source Antecedents Outcomes Key ndings
Cameron and
Webster (2011)
StudyResponse Communication
partner
Multi-communication
indicators
Various multi-communication indicators
are associated with rated incivility.
Cortina et al. (2013) Municipality,
law
enforcement,
military
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors
Gender, race,
workgroup
composition
Female gender and minority race status
are associated with more experienced
incivility. The higher the workgroup
proportion of men, the more incivility
was experienced.
Cortina et al. (2001) Federal court
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors
Gender Women experienced greater frequency
of incivility than men did.
Leiter et al. (2011,
2012), Spence
Lashinger et al.
(2012)
Healthcare
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors
Civility
intervention
A 6-month civility intervention
signicantly reduced experienced
supervisor, but not coworker incivility
post-intervention.
Leiter et al. (2012) Healthcare
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors
Civility
intervention
One year after the civility intervention
experienced, supervisor incivility was
lower than control and than scores pre-
intervention and immediately post-
intervention.
Leiter et al. (2010) Nurses Coworkers,
supervisors,
team
Generation X,
baby boomer
generation
Generation X nurses report more
coworker, supervisory, and team
incivility than baby boomer generation
nurses.
Lim and Lee (2011) Full-time
employees in
Singapore
Coworkers,
supervisors,
subordinates
Source of
incivility, age and
gender of target
Employees received the most incivility
from supervisors followed by coworkers
and then from subordinates. Younger
employees reported more incivility than
older workers, and men reported greater
levels than women.
Meier and Spector
(2013)
Employees
from
various
organizations
Coworkers,
supervisors
Counterproductive
work behavior at
several time points
Interpersonal counterproductive work
behavior predicted incivility 2, 4, 6, and
8 months later. Organizational
counterproductivity predicted incivility 2
and 4 months later.
Milam et al. (2009) Full-time
employees from
various
organizations
Coworkers,
supervisors
Agreeableness,
neuroticism,
extraversion,
provocative target
Individuals low in agreeableness and
high in neuroticism report more incivility.
Coworkersappraisals of being a
provocative target for incivility mediate
the relationships between both coworker-
reported agreeableness and neuroticism
with incivility.
Coworkers,
supervisors
Adiposity, gender,
race
Adiposity was positively related to
incivility. Being obese was related to the
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Sliter, Sliter,
Withrow, and Jex
(2012)
Undergraduate
working
students
highest levels, and being underweight
was positively related to incivility for
men only. A signicant three-way
interaction indicates that White adipose
women received the highest levels of
incivility, followed by Black women,
then White men, and nally Black men.
Taylor and
Kluemper (2012)
Employees
from
various
organizations
Coworkers,
supervisors
Role ambiguity,
role conict
Role ambiguity and role conict were
positively related to incivility. The
relationship between role ambiguity and
incivility is stronger for employees high
in neuroticism.
Trudel and Reio
(2011)
Healthcare and
manufacturing
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors
Conict
management
styles, gender
Experienced incivility is positively
related to having a dominating conict
management style and negatively related
to having an integrating conict
management style. Women were more
likely to be targets of incivility.
Walsh et al. (2012) State
government
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors
Workgroup norms
for civility
Workgroup norms for civility were
negatively related to supervisor and
coworker incivility from 4 months later.
Adams and Webster
(2013)
University
alumni,
engineering
rm
employees
Customers,
coworkers
Abusive supervision,
surface acting, distress
Experienced incivility by customers and
coworkers was positively linked with
surface acting and distress. The
relationships between customer and
coworker incivility and distress were
partially mediated by surface acting.
Barker Caza and
Cortina (2007)
Undergraduate
students
Top-down
(higher-status)
and lateral
(same-status)
people
Perceived ostracism,
perceived injustice
Top-down and lateral incivility are
positively linked to perceived ostracism,
psychological distress, and academic
disengagement. Top-down incivility is
linked with perceived injustice.
Bunk and Magley
(2013)
Employees
from
various
organizations
Coworkers,
supervisors,
subordinates
Emotionality,
reciprocation, optimism,
satisfaction
The relationship between incivility and
reciprocation is mediated by
emotionality. The relationship between
specic incident incivility frequency and
supervisor and coworker satisfaction is
mediated by optimism (reverse coded).
Cameron and
Webster (2011)
StudyResponse
paid survey
takers
Communication
partner
Affective trust Higher perceptions of incivility in the
context of multi-communication were
associated with lower affective trust of
the focal individual.
Chen et al. (2013) Manufacturing,
property
Coworkers,
supervisors
Work engagement, task
performance, narcissism
The negative relationship between
incivility and task performance is
(Continues)
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Table 1. (Continued)
Study Sample Source Antecedents Outcomes Key ndings
company,
and department
store employees
in
China
mediated by work engagement. This
mediated relationship is stronger for
those higher in narcissism.
Cortina and Magley
(2009)
University
employees,
attorneys, court
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors,
subordinates
Frequency and variety of
incivility, instigator power,
target appraisal, coping
reactions
Incivility triggers mild emotional
appraisals. Frequent incivility, varied
incivility, and higher instigator power
are appraised more negatively by targets.
Few targets (16%) responded to
experienced incivility by reporting it to
organizational authorities.
Cortina et al. (2001) Federal court
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors
Job satisfaction, job
withdrawal, career
salience, psychological
well-being, and distress
Incivility was related to lower job
satisfaction, career salience, and
psychological well-being and to higher
job withdrawal and psychological
distress.
Cortina et al. (2002) Federal court
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors
Avoidance, denial Most targets of incivility respond with
avoidance and denial.
Cortina et al. (2013) Municipality,
law
enforcement,
military
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors
Turnover intentions Experienced incivility is linked with
turnover intentions.
Diefendorff and
Croyle (2008)
Customer
service
and sales
workers
Customer
interaction
Expectancy motivation,
emotional labor
Employee expectancy, valence,
motivational force, and display rule
commitment were lower in an uncivil
customer interaction.
Ferguson (2012) Employees and
their partners
Coworkers Marital satisfaction,
partner marital
satisfaction, partner
family-to-work conict
Incivility negatively predicts target
employee marital satisfaction as
mediated by stress transmission.
Incivility predicts partner marital
satisfaction and family-to-work conict
as mediated by the targets stress
transmission from work to family
domains.
Giumetti et al.
(2013)
Undergraduate
students
Supervisor Cognitive, emotional, and
social energy, task
performance, task
engagement, positive and
negative affect
Participantscognitive, emotional, and
social energy levels were lower in the
cyber incivility condition relative to the
cyber supportive condition. Incivility
yielded decreased positive affect, task
performance, and engagement and
S72 P. SCHILPZAND ET AL.
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higher negative affect in participants.
Less emotional energy mediated the
relationship between supervisor
incivility and task performance, and less
social energy mediated the relationship
with task engagement.
Grifn (2010) Australian and
New Zealand
employees
Coworkers Organizational and
individual incivility intent
to stay, interactional
justice climate
Organization-level incivility positively
predicts intent to stay over and above
individual-level incivility. Interactional
justice climate mediates the relationship
between organization-level incivility and
intent to stay.
Kern and Grandey
(2009)
Retail
employees
Customer Racial identity centrality,
stress, emotional
exhaustion
For employees with stronger racial
identity centrality, customer incivility is
more strongly related to emotional
exhaustion as mediated by higher stress
appraisal.
Kim and Shapiro
(2008)
American and
Korean
executive
Master in
Business
Administration
students
Supervisor Supervisory and
organizational retaliatory
behavior, negative
emotions, collectivism
Participants in the rudeness (vs. polite)
condition displayed more supervisory
and organizational retaliatory behavior;
negative emotions partially mediated
these relationships. Targets retaliate
more when the supervisor was dissimilar
to them. Those targets with high
collectivism are less likely to retaliate
against rude supervisors who are similar
to them.
Lim and Cortina
(2005)
Female federal
judicial circuit
court
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors,
subordinates
Harassment, stress,
satisfaction, withdrawal,
well-being
Incivility was positively related to sexual
and gender harassment, job withdrawal,
and stress and negatively related to all
facets of job satisfaction, life and health
satisfaction, and well-being.
Lim et al. (2008) Federal judicial
court
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors,
individual and
workgroup
levels
Job satisfaction, turnover
intentions, mental and
physical health
Personal and workgroup incivility are
negatively linked with mental health and
job satisfaction. Job satisfaction partially
mediated the relationship between
incivility and turnover intentions. Mental
health partially mediated the relationship
between incivility and physical health.
Lim and Lee (2011) Full-time
Singaporean
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors,
subordinates
Family support, perceived
fairness, coworker
satisfaction, work-to-
family conict
Supervisor incivility was associated with
higher work-to-family conict.
Coworker incivility was positively
linked with depression and negatively
linked with coworker satisfaction and
(Continues)
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Table 1. (Continued)
Study Sample Source Antecedents Outcomes Key ndings
perceived fairness. These relationships
are stronger for those employees with
more family support.
Lim and Teo (2009) Singaporean
banking and
nancial
services
employees
Supervisors Organizational
commitment, job
satisfaction, turnover
intentions, deviance
Cyber incivility was negatively related to
organizational commitment and job
satisfaction and positively linked to
turnover intentions and workplace deviance.
Martin and Hine
(2005)
Employees
from
various
Australian
organizations
Coworkers,
supervisors
Coworker, supervisor, and
health satisfaction, work
withdrawal, psychological
well-being
Incivility sub-factors were related to
criteria. Hostility was negatively related to
supervisor satisfaction, privacy was
positively related to withdrawal, exclusion
was negatively related to coworker and
supervisor satisfaction and well-being, and
gossiping was negatively linked to
coworker and health satisfaction and
positively linked to work withdrawal.
Miner et al. (2012) Property
management
company
employees,
students
Coworkers,
supervisors,
fellow students
Emotional and
organizational support, job
stress, depression, job and
life satisfaction, physical
illness
Incivility is positively linked with job
stress and depression and negatively
linked with job and life satisfaction.
Support buffers the effects of incivility on
job satisfaction, job stress, physical illness,
depression, and life satisfaction
Miner-Rubino and
Reed (2010)
Property
management
employees
Workgroup
members
Organizational trust,
turnover intentions,
burnout, job satisfaction,
group regard
Organizational trust mediated the
relationship between workgroup
incivility and turnover intention,
burnout, and job satisfaction. Group
regard moderated the negative
relationship between workgroup
incivility and organizational trust.
Oore et al. (2010) Healthcare
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors
Workload, job control,
mental health, physical
health, civility intervention
Incivility from coworkers strengthened
the relationship between both workload
stress and low job control stress with
mental health. Supervisory incivility
strengthened the relationship between
workload and physical health. The
negative relationship between work
overload and mental health was reduced for
those healthcare workers who took part in a
6-month civility training intervention.
Penney and Spector
(2005)
Employed
students
Coworkers,
supervisors
Job satisfaction,
counterproductive work
Incivility was negatively related to job
satisfaction. Incivility was positively
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behavior, trait-based
negative affectivity
related to counterproductive work
behavior, especially for employees high in
trait negative affectivity.
Porath and Erez
(2007)
Undergraduate
students
Authority gure,
third party,
imagined
rudeness
Task and creative
performance, helpfulness,
memory recall
Rudeness reduces performance, creative
performance, helpfulness, and memory
recall. Memory recall mediates the
relationship between incivility and task
performance.
Porath et al. (2008) Master in
Business
Administration
and
undergraduate
students
Coworkers,
supervisors,
subordinates
Aggressive and avoidant
responding to incivility,
legitimacy, gender, status
Being male and of high status were more
strongly associated with an aggressive
response to incivility, and being female and
of low status were more strongly associated
with an avoidant response to incivility. Men
were more likely to retaliate against peer
incivility, especially by male perpetrators.
Incivility by higher-status perpetrators was
rated more legitimate.
Porath and Pearson
(2012)
Employed
Master
in Business
Administration
students
Coworkers,
supervisors,
subordinates
Anger, fear, sadness,
absenteeism, exit,
displacement on the
organization
Incivility was associated with target
anger, fear, sadness, displacement on the
organization, absenteeism, and exit. Fear
mediated the relationship between incivility
and absenteeism and exit. Sadness mediated
the relationship between incivility and
absenteeism.
Sakurai and Jex
(2012)
Full-time
university
employees
Coworkers Negative emotions, work
effort, counterproductive
work behavior
Negative emotions mediate the
relationship between incivility and
counterproductive work behavior.
Negative emotions mediate the
relationship between incivility and work
effort at lower supervisory social support
levels.
Sliter et al. (2010) Bank tellers Customer Emotional exhaustion,
customer service quality,
emotional labor
Customer incivility is positively related to
emotional exhaustion, faking positive
emotions, and suppressing negative
emotions and negatively related to customer
service quality. Emotional labor mediates
the relationship between incivility and
emotional exhaustion and customer service
quality.
Sliter, Sliter and Jex
(2012)
Bank tellers Customers,
coworkers
Sales performance,
absenteeism, tardiness
Coworker incivility is positively linked with
absenteeism. Customer incivility is
negatively linked with sales performance
and positively linked with absenteeism and
tardiness. Absenteeism was highest,
(Continues)
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Table 1. (Continued)
Study Sample Source Antecedents Outcomes Key ndings
and sales performance was lowest when
both customer and coworker incivility were
experienced.
Sliter, Sliter,
Withrow, and Jex
(2012)
Undergraduate
working
students
Coworkers,
supervisors
Withdrawal, gender Incivility is positively associated with
withdrawal for male but not for female
employees.
Smith et al. (2010) Nurses Coworkers,
supervisors
Structural and
psychological
empowerment, age,
affective commitment
Controlling for age, in a model including
structural and psychological
empowerment, coworker incivility
negativelypredicts affective commitment, while
supervisory incivility does not.
Spence Laschinger
et al. (2009)
Nurses Coworkers,
supervisors,
Turnover intent,
job satisfaction,
commitment
Separately measured coworker and
supervisory incivility both positively
predicted turnover intent, and negatively
predicted job satisfaction and organizational
commitment.
Taylor et al. (2012) Undergraduate
working
students
Coworkers,
supervisors
The relationship between incivility and
citizenship behavior is mediated by
affective commitment for employees high in
conscientiousness.
Taylor and
Kluemper (2012)
Employees
from
various
organizations
Coworkers,
supervisors
Enacted aggression Incivility is positively related to enacted
aggression. The relationship between
incivility and enacted aggression is stronger
for employees low in agreeableness.
Wilson and
Holmvall (2013)
Retail sales
employees
Customers Job satisfaction, turnover
intentions, psychological
and job-specic strain
Customer incivility is negatively related to job
satisfaction and positively related to turnover
intentions and psychological and job-specic
strain. New scale development validation.
Wu et al. (2013) Chinese
manufacturing
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors,
subordinates
Interpersonal deviance,
hostile attribution bias,
negative reciprocity
beliefs
Workplace incivility and interpersonal
deviance are positively related when
hostile attribution bias and reciprocity
beliefs are high.
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Figure 2. Antecedents to and outcomes of experienced incivility
Table 2. Witnessed incivilityoutcomes
Study Sample Source Outcomes Key ndings
Miner-Rubino and
Cortina (2004)
Federal court
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors,
subordinates
Health satisfaction, work
withdrawal
Being witness to incivility toward
women reduced health satisfaction
and increased work withdrawal in
workgroups with a male majority.
Montgomery
et al. (2004)
Undergraduate
students
Video
stimuli
Gender, appropriateness Women rated incivility stimuli as
more inappropriate than men did.
Porath and Erez
(2009)
Undergraduate
students
Authority
gure, peer
Task performance, creativity,
citizenship behavior, negative
affect, dysfunctional ideation,
competitive/cooperative
conditions
Witnessing rudeness reduced task
performance, creative
performance, and citizenship
behavior and increased
dysfunctional ideation and
negative affect. Negative affect
mediated the relationship between
incivility and task and creative
performance. The effects of
witnessing rudeness are weaker on
those in the competitive rather
than cooperative condition.
Totterdell et al.
(2012)
Hospital staff Coworkers,
supervisors,
subordinates
Emotional depletion Witnessing incivility was related
to negative affective reaction,
which predicted emotional
exhaustion, especially when
taking the targets perspective and
when witnessing rather than
hearing about the incivility.
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Perpetrators attitudes and perceptions
Instigator attitudes and perceptions also relate to enacted incivility. For example, Blau and Anderson (2005) showed that
lower job satisfaction and perceptions of distributive injustice predicted instigated incivility, and Meier and Semmer
(2013) found that perceived lack of reciprocity, or the perception that one invests more into ones job than he or she obtains
in return, predicted employeesinstigated incivility. In a similar vein, a study that surveyed manufacturing employees of a
pharmaceutical plant that announced it was closing showed that instigated incivility is related to higher perceptions of
contract violation, plant closure illegitimacy, and perceptions of distributive and procedural unfairness (Blau, 2007). This
latter study also indicated that instigatorslevel of depression and strain positively relate to instigating uncivil conduct.
Situational antecedents
Characteristics of the situation also inuence instigated incivility. For example, employees who participated in a
2-week emotional self-efcacy intervention focused on expressive writing engaged in less post-intervention insti-
gated incivility than colleagues who did not participate in this intervention (Kirk et al., 2011). Another study showed
that being a target of incivility was positively related to instigated incivility (Trudel & Reio, 2011), which is corrob-
orated by a study of Van Jaarsveld et al. (2010) that showed that employees who experience incivility from customers
instigated more incivility toward customers than colleagues who were not subjected to customer incivility. One study
that focused on instigatorsoutcomes of uncivil conduct showed that call center employees who instigate workplace
incivility are distrusted and ostracized by their coworkers (Scott et al., 2013). Overall, within the body of work on
instigated incivility, many antecedents, outcomes, and mediating and moderating processes still remain to be
explored. One area that is especially unclear is the interpersonal relationship between the instigator and his or her
target of uncivil conduct or the insight into what instigators think about or feel toward their targets. Do they nd them
irritating and incompetent, do they not like their targets, or do instigators feel that their incivility would alert targets to
address or resolve some form of misconduct?
An interesting proposition in this domain is that that incivility enactment might be a modern way of discrimina-
tion enactment in organizations (Cortina, 2008). Given that overt discriminatory conduct in the form of sexism and
racism are decreasingly tolerated and legislation prohibits such conduct in workplaces, Cortina (2008) suggests that
the stealthy and ambiguous nature of incivility might make more prejudiced individuals more likely to express their
prejudice by instigating incivility toward minority targets. This theoretical notion remains to be tested empirically,
although as we noted when discussing ndings on experienced incivility, research suggests that race and gender
minority status did predict the experience of incivility (Cortina et al., 2013).
Please see Table 3 for an overview of the research on instigated incivility. This table provides the sources of
incivility, the samples of employees, and the study ndings. Figure 4 gives a graphical representation of the results
of the work conducted in this domain.
Figure 3. Outcomes of witnessed incivility
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Implications
The past 15 years has witnessed important progress in our understanding of the prevalence and impact of workplace
incivility. Not only do we now have insight into a wide range of consequences for targets of uncivil conduct, we
have also begun to understand some of the consequences of uncivil encounters for those who merely witness them.
In addition, researchers made the rst steps in examining why people engage in uncivil behaviors, that is, the ante-
cedents of instigated workplace incivility.
Our review of the literature clearly shows that the construct of workplace incivility has attracted a large group of
researchers that together produced 55 empirical studies that have been published in a wide variety of management
and psychology journals. These researchers investigated different types of workplace incivility (i.e., experienced,
witnessed, or instigated) and different sources of workplace incivility (i.e., supervisor, coworker, or customer)
and employed samples from many different countries that represent a broad range of professions. Moreover, they
used a variety of methodologies, measurement instruments, and reference periods. Hence, we conclude that the current
state of the incivility literature is characterized as broad and diverse, but also fragmented.
Table 3. Instigated incivilityantecedents and outcomes
Study Sample Targets Antecedents/outcomes Key ndings
Blau and Andersson
(2005)
Working adults Coworkers,
supervisors
Distributive justice, job
satisfaction, work
exhaustion
Time 1 distributive justice and job
satisfaction were negatively related to
instigated incivility at Time 2, and Time 1
workplace exhaustion was positively
related to instigated incivility at time 2.
Blau (2007) Manufacturing
plant
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors
Contract violation,
distributive and
procedural justice,
depression, strain
Instigated incivility is related to higher
contract violation, strain, and depression and
negatively linked to distributive and
procedural justice and plant closure legitimacy.
Cortina et al. (2001) Federal court
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors
Power Power is positively related to instigated
incivility.
Kirk et al. (2011) Working adults Coworkers Expressive writing
intervention
A 2-week expressive writing emotional
self-efcacy intervention reduced post-
intervention incivility.
Meier and Semmer
(2013)
Employees
from various
organizations
Coworkers,
supervisors
Lack of reciprocity,
trait, and state anger
Lack of reciprocity, trait, and state anger
predict instigated incivility. The
relationship between lack of reciprocity
and instigated incivility is mediated by
feelings of anger.
Scott et al. (2013) Call center
employees
Coworkers Distrust, exchange
partner quality,
exclusion
Instigated incivility is related to being
excluded; this relationship is mediated by
being distrusted. This relationship is
stronger when the instigator is perceived
as a low-quality exchange partner.
Trudel and Reio
(2011)
Manufacturing
and healthcare
employees
Coworkers,
supervisors
Conict management
styles, experienced
incivility
Instigated incivility is positively related to
being an incivility target and having a
dominating conict management style and
negatively related to having an integrating
conict management style.
Van Jaarsveld et al.
(2010)
Call center
employees
Customers Job demands, emotional
exhaustion, job
demands, experienced
incivility
Experienced customer incivility was
associated with higher employee job
demands and emotional exhaustion, which
related to higher levels of instigated
employee incivility toward customers.
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Another noteworthy characteristic of the literature on workplace incivility is the lack of an overarching or inte-
grated theoretical framework. Andersson and Pearsons (1999) seminal paper on workplace incivility introduced
the construct of workplace incivility from a social interactionist perspective and positioned workplace incivility as
an interactive event in order to emphasize the role of interpersonal and situational factors that inuence the exchange
of uncivil behaviors. They stated, The instigator(s), the target(s), the observer(s), and the social context all contrib-
ute to and are affected by an uncivil encounter(p. 457). Thus far, however, empirical research did not adopt this
social interactionist perspective. Instead, research mainly focused on antecedents and consequences of months or
years of experienced incivility, and the body of work on witnessed and instigated incivility took off without a the-
oretical framework or theoretical guidance. That is, so far, there is no theoretical model that underlies and intercon-
nects research on the antecedents and consequences of experienced, witnessed, and instigated workplace incivility.
Neither did researchers propose broad theoretical models that suggest theoretically grounded antecedents of work-
place incivility, outcomes of uncivil encounters, and the affective, cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral processes
that underlie these outcomes.
Because of the absence of a unied theoretical framework that could guide empirical research on workplace
incivility, researchers used a variety of theoretical approaches from related research domains to theoretically ground
their hypotheses. Unfortunately, this approach has led to a set of disconnected theories, which include, among
others, power theories (Miner-Rubino & Cortina, 2004), the group identity lens model (Kern & Grandey, 2009),
social exchange theory (Cameron & Webster, 2011; Scott et al., 2013), appraisal theory (Porath & Pearson,
2012), the emotion-centered model of work behavior (Sakurai & Jex, 2012), the DollardMiller model of aggression
(Taylor & Kluemper, 2012), and cognitivemotivationalrelational theory (Bunk & Magley, 2013). The adoption of
these various theoretical frameworks does show that incivility is a very versatile construct that is well-situated
among many diverse theoretical frameworks and can meaningfully be incorporated into a wide range of theories
from related streams of research. Yet, in the absence of a unied theoretical model, the incivility literature does
not present a clear picture of what is missing, and therefore, it might be difcult to see where progress could be
made. In its current form, the literature needed a clear and systematic review of the accumulated work, such as
the one we have provided, which clearly groups the ndings into the various types of incivility investigated in
the literature. To facilitate further accumulation of knowledge on experienced, witnessed, and instigated workplace
Figure 4. Antecedents to and outcomes of instigated incivility
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incivility as inherently separate but conceptually highly interconnected research domains, this narrative review pre-
sented an overview of the empirical studies that have been published so far.
Suggestions for Future Research
Not only does this paper provide a comprehensive overview of what we know,it also reveals several gaps in the
literature that could be addressed in order to further develop the research on workplace incivility in meaningful ways.
Theoretical frameworks
The organization of the incivility literature in this current paper should be instrumental in developing a unied theoret-
ical framework that would interconnect experienced, witnessed, and instigated workplace incivility and guide future re-
search. We believe that three theoretical perspectives may be good candidates for such a unied theory. One obvious
option would be to reconsider the social interactionist perspective in which the concept of incivility was originally
positioned (Andersson & Pearson, 1999). This perspective seems to align with trait activation theory (Tett & Guterman,
2000; Tett & Burnett, 2003), which proposes that the interactions between individualspersonality traits and trait-
relevant situational cues at the task level, interpersonal level, and team or organizational level could explain their reac-
tions to events and subsequent behaviors. Trait activation theory could be applied to targets, witnesses, and instigators of
uncivil behaviors and may thus be able to not only guide but also interconnect research on these types of incivility.
Another theoretical perspective that may be fruitful and may further incivility research is the transactional model of
stress (Folkman & Lazarus, 1985; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). According to this theory, appraisals of stressful work ex-
periences as challenges or as threats lead to positive or negative affective experiences, respectively, which in turn inu-
ence how individuals cope with those challenges and threats (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). So far, researchers have used
this theory as a framework to understand and examine how employees appraise uncivil incidents (e.g., Bunk & Magley,
2013), how targets cope with uncivil treatment (e.g., Cortina & Magley, 2009), and target outcomes of stressful incivil-
ity experiences (Cortina et al., 2001). Given that indeed, the uncivil work encounters employees experience or witness
may be appraised as stressful events and that work experiences that employees appraise as stressful may, through neg-
ative affect and cognitions, result in instigated workplace incivility, we believe that the transactional model of stress may
also be helpful in guiding and interconnecting research on the three types of workplace incivility.
A third theory that may help incivility research forward is the affective events theory (AET; Weiss & Cropanzano,
1996), which focuses on affective reactions to events that happen in the workplace. According to this theory, events
that happen in the workplace incite, depending on employeesindividual characteristics, affective reactions that in
turn elicit specic attitudes and behaviors. Indeed, AET has been used to explain the effects of experienced incivility
on targetshealth and turnover intentions, albeit not via affective states but via the affective process of satisfaction
with various aspects on ones work (Lim et al., 2008). Bunk & Magley (2013) link experienced incivility with
emotions and in turn with emotionality, which in turn predicted reciprocation of the behavior toward the perpetrator.
Although this study did not identify which specic emotions drive the reciprocation, these ndings begin to show
that emotional states may interconnect experienced and instigated incivility. AET might also be applicable to
witnessing incivility and could thus guide and interconnect future research within the three realms of incivility.
Incivility in social settings
Workplace incivility takes place in a social setting, and it is thus highly likely that uncivil incidents are witnessed by
others. Actually, given that incivility usually targets a specic employee, it is highly likely that the number of
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employees who witness uncivil incidents exceeds the number of employees who experience these incidents. Hence,
one area of future research that could provide opportunities to contribute to our knowledge of the consequences of
workplace incivility is the area of witnessed incivility. Research on this type of workplace incivility is especially
important because the few studies that investigated it have shown that witnessing uncivil incidents incites negative
mood (Porath & Erez, 2009; Totterdell, et al., 2012), has a negative impact on performance-related criteria (Porath
and Erez, 2009), and results in work withdrawal (Miner-Rubino & Cortina, 2004) and emotional exhaustion
(Totterdell et al., 2012).
Related to the preceding discussion, the literature on workplace incivility does not address experienced,
witnessed, or instigated incivility in team settings. However, research has indicated that it may be important to
include the team setting in future research on workplace incivility, because group-level incivility positively relates
to group membersturnover intentions, and burnout, and negatively relates to group membersjob satisfaction
(Miner-Rubino & Reed, 2010). It would be a meaningful contribution to the literature to examine if incivility
may become a team-level construct or how incivility might inuence team-level constructs such as team viability,
psychological safety climate, and team mental models. It would also be interesting to investigate whether one uncivil
team member is able to inuence an entire team and whether certain team member characteristics or behaviors could
buffer against the negative effects of a team members uncivil conduct.
Another situational attribute that warrants research attention is how organizational climate might inuence the
prevalence and impact of workplace incivility. When introducing the construct of workplace incivility, Andersson
and Pearson (1999) explained its pervasiveness by the rise of a climate of informalityin organizations. They ar-
gued that because of changes in the labor market, such as increased diversity, downsizing, increased productivity
norms, and budget cuts, organizational hierarchies became atter, and employees started to behave in more informal
ways, because atter organizations provide fewer obvious cues regarding civil interpersonal conduct. Future work
may benet from the development of a valid climate of informalitymeasure to test whether cultural informality
might spur incivility and yet in turn attenuate the harm of experienced or witnessed incivility in environments where
such conduct is more normative. Future research could also address how various organizational climate characteris-
tics might spur or buffer against the effects of workplace incivility.
Recently, empirical studies have started to investigate the impact of workplace incivility on social ties beyond the
work domain. These studies showed that experiencing incivility increases employeeswork-to-family conict
(Ferguson, 2012; Lim & Lee, 2011), which in turn decreases marital satisfaction in both employees and their
partners (Ferguson, 2012). The ndings that experienced workplace incivility even inuences the attitudes of both
targets of incivility and their partners in the homedomain suggest that it would be fruitful to examine a broader
range of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that targets of uncivil incidents and their partners may experience and
engage in during their off-work time.
Antecedents and mediators of workplace incivility
Given the high prevalence and high costs of workplace incivility, it is surprising that many more papers investigate the
outcomes of workplace incivility rather than its antecedents. We believe it is important to extend the line of research on
antecedents in order to accumulate knowledge and develop policies and interventions to diminish the prevalence of
workplace incivility. Such research projects may focus on attempts to dissuade instigatorsuncivil actions, focus on
ways employees may prevent becoming potential targets, or investigate broader contextual inuences such as organiza-
tional culture and climate variables that may reduce the prevalence of workplace incivility overall. Moreover, very little
work explains why certain antecedent constructs would lead to incivility. Only work by Milam et al (2009) investigated
the mediating mechanism for why certain dispositional personality characteristics would result in higher levels of expe-
rienced incivility; these authors found that disagreeable and neurotic coworkers made them more provocative targets.
In addition, given the strong negative effects of incivility, future research may benet from attempts to reveal the
reasons for why it has such strong reactions on witnesses. The only research that investigated mediators for the
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DOI: 10.1002/job
negative effects of witnessed incivility on outcomes has conveyed that negative affective reactions in witnesses
explained the effect of incivility on task and creative performance (Porath & Erez, 2009) and emotional exhaustion
(Totterdell, et al, 2012). Thus, future research may benet from investigating whether possible cognitive or behav-
ioral reactions of witnesses may explain the adverse effects on witnesses of incivility. Moreover, perhaps more
nuanced emotions, such as the target-directed emotion of empathy or instigator-directed emotion of anger, may also
be implicated in acts of witnessing incivility directed at others and explain some of the adverse effects.
Immediate effects of workplace incivility
We also see a lot of promise for further uncovering the in-the-moment or short-range effects of experiencing,
witnessing, and instigating workplace incivility. Hence, we encourage researchers to design experimental studies
and experience-sampling methodologies to capture these shorter-term affective, cognitive, and behavioral effects.
So far, most research has used retrospective questionnaires to examine consequences of experienced and witnessed
incivility. However, retrospective methods heavily rely on respondentsability to accurately remember and project
events that happened in the past and People will often judge what plausibly might be true rather than try to retrieve
exact facts(Anderson, 1995, p. 215). Hence, studies that use retrospective measures are also prone to respondents
biases and implicit theories. Experimental studies are less likely to be inuenced by participantsbiases and implicit
theories. Moreover, they allow testing for causal relationships, which may be very helpful in investigating theoret-
ical models on experienced, witnessed, and instigated workplace incivility that, hopefully, will be developed in the
near future.
Physiological antecedents and outcomes of incivility
As noted by one of our anonymous reviewers, work on biological and physiological antecedents for instigated inci-
vility and outcomes for experienced and witnessed incivility are largely absent from work on this topic. Generational
differences were linked to reports of experienced incivility (Leiter, et al., 2010), as were adiposity (Sliter et al., 2012)
and the demographic characteristics of age (Lim & Lee, 2011), gender, and race (Cortina et al., 2013), yet other
biological antecedents have remained unexplored. Especially when considering instigated incivility, physiological
antecedents such as diminished sleep, higher blood pressure, or cortisol levels might contribute to enacting uncivil
conduct. Such ndings would expand our understanding of the role of health and physiology on organizational
behaviors. In a similar vein, experienced and witnessed uncivil encounters may cause stress-related physiological
reactions and symptoms, providing further evidence of the immediate and short-term harm incivility may cause.
Understanding the short-range physiological impacts may persuade organizations to implement policies, interventions,
or training programs aimed at reducing the occurrence of incivility in their workplaces before longer-term organiza-
tional productivity and employeeshealth are impacted. Thus, a focus on biological or physiological antecedents and
outcomes might be a promising avenue for future research.
The role of attributions in the appraisal of uncivil incidents
How individuals react to outcomes of events is likely to depend on their attributions regarding the causes of these
events (e.g., Martinko, Harvey, & Dasborough, 2011). Victimsemotional and behavioral reactions to workplace
incivility might thus depend on what they believe caused their uncivil treatment (e.g., Porath & Erez, 2007). Hence,
one nal suggestion for future research is to examine the role of attributions of uncivil workplace behaviors. The
relevance of attributions for peoples perceptions of and reactions to negative workplace behaviors is indirectly
supported by a recent meta-analysis (Hershcovis & Barling, 2010), which suggests that attributions for negative
WORKPLACE INCIVILITY S83
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workplace behaviors may drive the magnitude of the harm they cause. Research about attributions related to incivil-
ity has remained largely unstudied, and such research would make important contributions to understanding why
incivility differentially affects its targets.
Similarities and differences among various forms of interpersonal misbehavior
Hershcovis (2011) recently argued that various forms of workplace aggression (i.e., abusive supervision, bullying,
incivility, interpersonal conict, and social undermining) seem to predict many of the same outcomes in similar mag-
nitudes. She speculated that research on these conceptually distinct concepts may have led to similar research ndings
because the way in which researchers usually operationalize and measure these conceptualizations of workplace
aggression may obscure how they may affect targetsexperiences and outcomes in different ways. Specically,
Hershcovis (2011) noted that extant research on the various forms of workplace aggression failed to measure those
criteria that differentiate the distinct forms of mistreatment from one another. As a consequence, potential differences
in antecedents and outcomes of different forms of workplace aggression have yet to be established. Investigating why
employees engage in uncivil behavior or when incivility results in unique outcomes would make a strong contribution
not only to the literature on workplace incivility but also to the broader eld of workplace aggression. Therefore, we
recommend future work that focuses on antecedents, processes, and outcomes that would theoretically and distinctly
relate to the dening characteristics of workplace incivility: low intensity and ambiguous intent. Such future research
endeavors should apply the precise denitionapproach (OLeary-Kelly, Duffy & Grifn, 2000), which advocates
the more precise study of a construct or behavior and thus allows for more exact theory building and theory testing.
Summary and Conclusion
Incivility is a costly and pervasive workplace behavior that has important negative affective, cognitive, and behav-
ioral consequences for its targets, witnesses, and instigators. Moreover, it has been noted as a modern way in which
racism and sexism may manifest itself in organizations (Cortina, 2008). It is therefore important to continue research
efforts that attempt to further our understanding of workplace incivility and may help curtail this harmful behavior in
its various forms. Given the negative consequences and high prevalence of workplace incivility, we hope this review
article will inspire scholars to further investigate this harmful workplace phenomenon and will assist and encourage
practitioners to develop policies and measures to reduce the occurrence and impact of experienced, witnessed, and
instigated workplace incivility.
In this narrative review article, we summarized and integrated the research on workplace incivility, an area of research
that attracts increasing amounts of interest from scholars in the eld of organizational behavior. We tried to create an
organized overview of a research eld that at present is fragmented and may, therefore, have been less accessible.
We hope that this review of the workplace incivility literature provides directions for future, theoretically driven
research on the antecedents, processes, and outcomes of experienced, witnessed, and instigated workplace incivility.
Author biographies
Pauline Schilpzand is an Assistant Professor in the College of Business, Department of Management at Oregon State
University. Her research interests include interpersonal processes, workplace courage, and workplace incivility.
S84 P. SCHILPZAND ET AL.
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Irene de Pater is an Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore Business School, Department of
Management and Organization. Her research interests include job challenge, the aging workforce, gender at work,
and workplace incivility.
Amir Erez is a Full Professor and a Huber Hurst Fellow at the College of Business Administration at the University
of Florida. His research interests include workplace incivility, dispositions and emotions, and research methods in
organizational studies.
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... Workplace incivility is the most frequently experienced negative interpersonal stressor among employees (Arasli et al., 2018). Various surveys have reported that up to 98% of employees have experienced incivility, and 99% have witnessed it at their workplace (Porath and Pearson, 2013;Schilpzand et al., 2016). It has devastating effects on employees and organizations alike (He et al., 2021). ...
... Alarmingly, even after two decades of research, incidents of workplace incivility are on the rise in organizations (Manzoor et al., 2020). These increasing instances of workplace incivility call for more scholarly attention to understand its various antecedents, outcomes, mechanisms and the boundary conditions (He et al., 2021) to design interventions for minimizing its detrimental effects (Schilpzand et al., 2016). ...
... Moreover, in the hospitality incivility literature, studies majorly focused on the effect of customer incivility on various levels of outcomes, and scarce attention has been given to understand the effect of coworker and supervisor incivility (Im and Cho, 2022). Further, studies have more emphasized on understanding the direct outcomes of workplace incivility while the explanatory mechanisms linking workplace incivility and various outcomes remain largely unexamined Schilpzand et al., 2016). Im and Cho (2022) stated that employees' psychological states after workplace events could explain the relationships between workplace events and employee-level outcomes. ...
Purpose This study aims to analyze the direct relationship between workplace incivility and employee well-being among frontline hotel employees. Anchoring on affective events theory, this study also analyzes the explanatory role of loneliness and the role of workplace social support as a boundary condition influencing the proposed relationships in the model. Design/methodology/approach Responses were collected from 243 frontline hotel employees using established scales in two-time points through survey method. The proposed hypotheses were analyzed using SPSS PROCESS macros. Findings The results confirmed the detrimental effect of incivility at work on employee well-being and the mediating role of loneliness at work. This. study has also demonstrated that workplace social support conditions the mediated effect of workplace incivility on employee well-being via loneliness. Practical implications This study has vital practical implications for mitigating the adverse effects of workplace incivility on employee well-being through loneliness at work by developing interventions that foster social support among employees. This study also provides directions to reduce workplace incivility and loneliness at work. Originality/value This study provides a unique understanding of the consequences of workplace incivility on employee well-being. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this could be the first study that has established loneliness as a pathway linking workplace incivility and employee well-being. This study results have unique significance in the management of hospitality employees.
... Regarding rude(ness), research on workplace incivility indicates that incivility is likely to be triggered by, among other things, job dissatisfaction, felt injustice, and work exhaustion (Blau and Andersson, 2005). These aspects underscore the situational character of rudeness, which can be a reaction to negatively perceived circumstances (see also Schilpzand et al., 2016). Moreover (although the consequences of being rude in the workplace have not been extensively investigated; Schilpzand et al., 2016), being rude can lead to being excluded by colleagues (Scott et al., 2013), therefore leading to unpleasant consequences in the workplace. ...
... These aspects underscore the situational character of rudeness, which can be a reaction to negatively perceived circumstances (see also Schilpzand et al., 2016). Moreover (although the consequences of being rude in the workplace have not been extensively investigated; Schilpzand et al., 2016), being rude can lead to being excluded by colleagues (Scott et al., 2013), therefore leading to unpleasant consequences in the workplace. The situational character, as well as the possible negative consequences, make it unlikely that followers per se define their role as being rude. ...
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... Similarly, Li et al. (2021) also reconnoitered daily oscillation in interpersonal deviance. Victims of workplace cyberbullying are less prudent to elucidate the emotional issues in the short run (Schilpzand et al., 2016). Earlier research failed to scrutinize within-person discrepancies in workplace cyberbullying and preys who were unable to probe the dynamic process, makeing them aggressive after experiencing workplace cyberbullying (Rosen et al., 2016). ...
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