Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Examining Instrument Issues in Workplace Incivility: Measurement or Mutation?

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Examining Instrument Issues in Workplace Incivility: Measurement or Mutation?

Article excerpt


Research on workplace incivility seems somewhat disjointed and fragmented. Put simply, "A better understanding is required!" That is what brings these authors to investigate workplace incivility. It is within that basic goal of understanding that better theory is built. By looking at the development and use of the current measurements of workplace incivility we call into question the fundamental understanding and agreement of what workplace incivility is.

The goal of this paper is to develop a better understanding of workplace incivility highlighted within the differences found in the measurements. In this article we will walk through the current measurements of workplace incivility and outline the various inconsistencies and deficiencies within the current measures and the inherent risks these issues cause for measurement validation. Further, we propose a framework through which these issues can be addressed and prevented, as well as offer some exciting possibilities for future research. This work is important to the incivility literature as it is the simple evolution of conceptual refinement that allows scientists to build better theory and practitioners to make better predictions of behavior.

Since the inception of this construct, the area of incivility has taken off with more than 50 articles written on the subject. During this explosion, the construct has become anything but more clear. Researchers have attempted to parcel the topic through the use of various measures. Each of these measures manipulates incivility through definition, role (target, instigator, and witness), and construct parameters. This research does a review of extant workplace incivility measurements to show that there are some discrepancies in the construct within the literature. Hence, a framework was developed upon which to analyze and review the various measures.


Workplace incivility was brought to our attention through the work of Andersson and Pearson (2001) and defined as "Low intensity, deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms for mutual respect. " Authors go on to give examples of behaviors such as demeaning notes or conversations, excluding members, ignoring, cutting people off while speaking, or leaving a mess for someone else to clean up.

Literature agrees that workplace incivility is damaging to organizations in the form of increased turnover intention (Cortina, Magley, Williams, & Langhout, 2001; Lim, Cortina & Magley, 2008; Giumetti, McKibben, Hatfield, Schroder, Kowalski, 2012), decreased job satisfaction (Cortina et al., 2001; Cortina and Magley, 2003; Miner-Rubino & Cortina, 2004; Penney & Spector, 2005; Lim, et al., 2008; Lim & Lee, 2011; Morrow, McElroy & Scheibe, 2011), decreased performance (Porath & Erez, 2007; 2009; Estes & Wang, 2008), decreased organizational commitment (Blau & Andersson, 2005), and decreased organizational citizenship behavior (Porath & Erez, 2007). Additionally, Andersson and Pearson (1999) discuss the spiraling effect of incivility. The spiraling effect states that in the presence of incivility a retaliation of sorts occurs, possibly leading to much higher intensity aggressive behaviors.

Incivility is often described as a subset of deviant behavior (Bennett & Robinson, 1995). These researchers categorized deviant behavior into a four-part typology ranging from minor to serious and interpersonal to organizational. Incivility falls into, but is not fully encompassing, nor subsuming of their third and fourth quadrants labeled "political deviance" and "personal aggression." The political deviance quadrant is defined as "engagement in social interaction that puts other individuals at a personal or political disadvantage" (Bennett & Robinson, 1995). Further, they defined personal aggression as "behaving in an aggressive or hostile manner toward another individual" (Bennett & Robinson, 1995). …

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