Academic journal article International Journal of Employment Studies

The Mediating Role of Belongingness in the Relationship between Workplace Incivility and Thriving

Academic journal article International Journal of Employment Studies

The Mediating Role of Belongingness in the Relationship between Workplace Incivility and Thriving

Article excerpt


Organisational scholars have shown a burgeoning interest in workplace mistreatment encompassing various behaviours such as bullying, supervision abusing and sexual harassment. As such, extant literature has delved into distinguishing these constructs and delineating their antecedents and outcomes (eg Hershcovis, 2011). Most of these aggressive behaviours are overt and intentionally committed by the perpetrator. However, the present study focuses on a more insidious form of workplace mistreatment--incivility. Lim et al (2008) found that organisations might often flout the deleterious role of this form of mistreatment. Workplace incivility is defined as "low-intensity deviant behaviour with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms for mutual respect. Uncivil behaviours are characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others" (Andersson & Pearson, 1999, p. 457). As a result, workplace incivility is distinct from other mistreatment behaviours with regard to both its ambiguous intention and low magnitude. In essence, though, incivility can be the 'starting point' of future apparent and intentional aggressive behaviours (Pearson et al., 2000, p. 123).

Research has found that the majority of survey respondents (71%) have experienced uncivil behaviours in the past five years (Cortina et al., 2001) whereas 20% of another sample reported pertinent incidents at least once per week (Pearson & Porath, 2005). Prior studies indicated the detrimental impact of workplace incivility on numerous outcomes including performance, job satisfaction, organisational commitment, work/family conflict, job withdrawal, organisational citizenship behaviour, turnover intentions and burnout (Cortina et al., 2001; Lim & Lee, 2011; Lim et al., 2008; Miner-Rubino & Reed, 2010; Pearson et al., 2000; Penney & Spector, 2005; Taylor et al., 2012). Yet scant empirical research has associated workplace incivility with constructs related to employees' growth, development and flourishing in the workplace. Therefore, we employed a relatively novel construct, thriving, which has been defined as "the psychological state in which individuals experience both a sense of vitality and a sense of learning" (Spreitzer et al., 2005, p. 538), as our core outcome. Even more so, limited explanatory mechanisms are purported to account for the negative effect of this phenomenon on work outcomes (Taylor et al., 2012). Hence, drawing on belongingness theory, the present study attempts to contribute to the literature by examining the mediating role of belongingness in the relationship between workplace incivility from peers and employees' thriving at work.


Incivility and belongingness

Belongingness theory (Baumeister & Leary, 1995) argues that the need to belong comprises a core human need. As a result, people attempt to cultivate and maintain high quality interpersonal relationships. When people cope with adverse and negative relationships, their belongingness is thwarted. For instance, prior studies have demonstrated that workplace ostracism impairs the need to belong (O'Reilly & Robinson, 2009). Similarly, we postulate that workplace incivility from peers has a negative impact on employees' belongingness.

Although workplace incivility constitutes a mild antisocial behaviour, it may undermine cooperation and mutual respect among employees (Lim et al., 2008). Workplace incivility has been shown to be associated, inter alia, with low satisfaction with peers (Lim & Lee, 2011). Also, employees who experience such behaviours are likely to feel neglected and isolated from their peers (Pearson et al., 2001). In a related vein, workplace incivility bolsters employees' 'thoughts of leaving the organisation' (Lim et al., 2008, p. 97). Given that the need to belong is predicated on relations deprived of negative feelings and conflicts (Baumeister & Leary, 1995) and combined with affective events theory (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996) that highlights the vital role of events at work in affecting employees' emotional reactions and experiences, we argue that workplace incivility is likely to dampen belongingness. …

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