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'First, Do No Harm': The Role of Negative Emotions and Moral Disengagement in Understanding the Relationship Between Workplace Aggression and Misbehavior

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'First, Do No Harm': The Role of Negative Emotions and Moral Disengagement in Understanding the Relationship Between Workplace Aggression and Misbehavior

Roberta Fida et al. Front Psychol.

Abstract

Workplace aggression is a critical phenomenon particularly in the healthcare sector, where nurses are especially at risk of bullying and third-party aggression. While workplace aggression has been frequently examined in relation to health problems, less is known about the possible negative impact such aggression may have on the (un)ethical behavior of victims. Our research aims to fill this gap. Drawing on literature on counterproductive work behavior (CWB) and the social-cognitive literature on aggression we investigated in two independent studies (NStudy1 = 439; NStudy2 = 416), the role of negative emotions - in particular anger, fear, and sadness, - and of moral disengagement (MD) in the paths between workplace aggression, CWB and health symptoms. The focus on these relationships is rooted in two reasons. First, misbehavior at work is a pervasive phenomenon worldwide and second, little research has been conducted in the healthcare sector on this type of behavior despite the potential importance of the issue in this context. We empirically tested our hypotheses considering a specific form of workplace aggression in each study: workplace bullying or third-party aggression. Results from the two empirical studies confirm the hypotheses that being target of workplace aggression (bullying or third-party aggression) is not only associated with health symptoms but also with misbehavior. In addition, the results of structural equation modeling attest the importance of examining specific discrete negative emotions and MD for better understanding misbehavior at work. In particular, this research shows for the first time that anger, fear, and sadness, generally aggregated into a single dimension, are indeed differently associated with MD, misbehavior and health symptoms. Specifically, in line with the literature on discrete emotions, while sadness is only associated with health symptoms, anger and fear are related to both health and misbehavior.

Keywords: bullying; discrete negative emotions; health; misbehavior; moral disengagement; workplace aggression.

Figures

FIGURE 1
FIGURE 1
Posited Model: the role of discrete negative emotions and moral disengagement in the relationship between being target of aggression and engaging in counterproductive work behavior.
FIGURE 2
FIGURE 2
Study 1: results of the posited Model 1 – General negative emotion. All variables are latent variables measured by their indicators as described in the text. Completely standardized robust maximum likelihood parameter estimates. All coefficients reported are significant for p < 0.05. The results of the role of the covariates and the non-significant hypothesized paths have not been reported in the figure, but they are discussed in the text. CWB-O, organizational counterproductive work behavior; CWB-P, interpersonal counterproductive work behavior.
FIGURE 3
FIGURE 3
Study 1: results of the posited Model 2- Discrete negative emotions. All variables are latent variables measured by their indicators as described in the text. Completely standardized robust maximum likelihood parameter estimates. All coefficients reported are significant for p < 0.05. The results of the role of the covariates and the non-significant hypothesized paths have not been reported in the figure, but they are discussed in the text. F, residual variance of Fear, that is, what Fear does not share with Anger and Sadness; S, residual variance of Sadness, that is, what Sadness does not share with Anger and Fear; A, residual variance of Anger, that is, what Anger does not share with Fear and Sadness; CWB-O, organizational counterproductive work behavior; CWB-P, interpersonal counterproductive work behavior. p < 0.10.
FIGURE 4
FIGURE 4
Study 2: results of the posited Model 1 – general negative emotion. All variables are latent variables measured by their indicators as described in the text. Completely standardized robust maximum likelihood parameter estimates. All coefficients reported are significant for p < 0.05. The results of the role of the covariates and the non-significant hypothesized paths have not been reported in the figure, but they are discussed in the text. CWB-P, interpersonal counterproductive work behavior.
FIGURE 5
FIGURE 5
Study 2: results of the posited Model 2 – discrete negative emotions. All variables are latent variables measured by their indicators as described in the text. Completely standardized robust maximum likelihood parameter estimates. All coefficients reported are significant for p < 0.05. The results of the role of the covariates and the non-significant hypothesized paths have not been reported in the figure, but they are discussed in the text. F, residual variance of Fear, that is, what Fear does not share with Anger and Sadness; S, residual variance of Sadness, that is, what Sadness does not share with Anger and Fear; A, residual variance of Anger, that is, what Anger does not share with Fear and Sadness; CWB-P, interpersonal counterproductive work behavior.

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