Job Stress and Incivility: What Role Does Psychological Capital Play? WRITTEN BY SARA J. ROBERTS , LISA L. SCHERER , AND CASEY J. BOWYER
Abstract Uncivil behaviors are costly to organizations due to their resulting decrease in health, performance, and attendance among employees. The purpose of the present study is to examine whether job stress increases one’s tendency to display uncivil behaviors and whether psychological capital moderates this relationship. A total of 390 working adults completed a questionnaire assessing the level of stress at their current job, their level of psychological capital, and the extent to which they display uncivil behaviors at work. Results indicated that psychological capital buffers the effect of job stress on incivility. What is psychological capital? Psychological capital refers to one’s attitudes about how well they can handle challenges and overcome adversity. Essentially, psychological capital is a type of self-fulfilling prophecy.
DEFINING INCIVILITY Incivility refers to rude and offensive behaviors that disrupt the culture of a workplace setting. Incivility can be broken down into three categories: mild, deviant, and ambiguous. Mild incivility is any deviant behavior that is low in intensity. These behaviors can include gossiping and passive aggressive behavior, such as ignoring a fellow employee, taking their supplies without asking, or failing to inform them about an important meeting. Mild incivility never includes physical assault. Deviant incivility is classified as any behavior that disrupts or violates the norms of an organization and these behaviors can include both verbal and non-verbal aggressions or acts of physical violence. Ambiguous incivility is how any deviant behavior is perceived by the target of that behavior. “The ambiguous nature of incivility encompasses both the intent of the instigator and the perception of the target. The instigator may engage in an action with or without intent to harm. The target may perceive this action as deliberate and purposeful or accidental and committed out of ignorance” (Pearson & Porath, 2005). A microaggression, for instance, can be an example of ambiguous incivility. The one who his committing the microaggression may not be cognizant of how harmful their actions may be to the person who’s experiencing the microaggression, but the one being affected will most likely develop a sense of mistrust towards the instigator in the future because of this discrepancy.
HOW JOB STRESS CAN LEAD TO INCIVILITY • “JOB STRESS REFERS TO THE DISCOMFORT A PERSON EXPERIENCES AS A RESULT OF HIS OR HER WORK SITUATION, WHICH IS TYPICALLY CREATED WHEN AN IMBALANCE BETWEEN JOB DEMANDS AND RESOURCES ARISES” (BEEHR, 1991; LAZARUS & FOLKMAN, 1984).
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