Who strikes back? A daily investigation of when and why incivility begets incivility

J Appl Psychol. 2016 Nov;101(11):1620-1634. doi: 10.1037/apl0000140. Epub 2016 Aug 8.


Incivility at work-low intensity deviant behaviors with an ambiguous intent to harm-has been on the rise, yielding negative consequences for employees' well-being and companies' bottom-lines. Although examinations of incivility have gained momentum in organizational research, theory and empirical tests involving dynamic, within-person processes associated with this negative interpersonal behavior are limited. Drawing from ego depletion theory, we test how experiencing incivility precipitates instigating incivility toward others at work via reduced self-control. Using an experience sampling design across 2 work weeks, we found that experiencing incivility earlier in the day reduced one's levels of self-control (captured via a performance-based measure of self-control), which in turn resulted in increased instigated incivility later in the day. Moreover, organizational politics-a stable, environmental factor-strengthened the relation between experienced incivility and reduced self-control, whereas construal level-a stable, personal factor-weakened the relation between reduced self-control and instigated incivility. Combined, our results yield multiple theoretical, empirical, and practical implications for the study of incivility at work. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bullying*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Self-Control / psychology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Workplace / psychology*