Job Stress and Incivility

Sara J. Roberts, Lisa L. Scherer and Casey J. Bowyer, all of University of Nebraska, published “Job Stress and Incivility: What Role Does Psychological Capital Play?” in the May 2011 issue of the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies. Sara Roberts provided some background on the recent article, with additional thoughts from Lisa Scherer and Casey Bowyer.

Who is the target audience for this article?

The target audience consists of: 1) researchers interested in learning more about the constructs of stress, Psychological Capital, and incivility, 2) employees who have been the perpetrator or victim of workplace incivility, and 3) organizational decision makers, from HR Vice Presidents to CEOs, who have the power to design selection and training programs based on positive qualities such as Psychological Capital.

What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

We have long been interested in how to enhance the positive aspects of organizational cultures in order to maximize people’s productivity, health and well-being. Incivility, although inherently mild, has been shown to have an extremely negative impact on an organization’s culture. Our goal is to identify the antecedents of incivility in order to provide practitioners with evidence-based solutions to the problem. The construct of Psychological Capital is an intriguing overarching construct comprised of many positive psychology traits and states that can be used in selection decisions and training interventions to reduce the occurrence of incivility in the workplace.

Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Our hypotheses were based on theoretical and empirical evidence. Therefore, it is not surprising that they were supported.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

We can only hope that researchers will continue to identify and cultivate strengths and virtues in people at work as we move forward in addressing problems caused by deviant or counterproductive behavior. The industrial-organizational psychology and management literature is doing a great job identifying problems, but we have not been as prolific in publishing research on solutions to those problems. We also hope that practitioners will begin to implement changes in their selection processes and training programs in order to increase employee strengths and virtues within their company.

How does this study fit into your body of work/line of research?

We have noticed that many people are unhappy at work not because of a lack of fit between their skill sets and job requirements, but because of how negative or toxic their work culture was. Employees complain about the daily stress they feel from misbehavior and poor manners of supervisors, colleagues, subordinates and customers. This led us into the area of deviant workplace behavior focusing specifically on the antecedents of these behaviors as well as exploring variables that hinder or reduce the occurrence of dark side behaviors at work.

How did your paper change during the review process?

The reviewers helped us polish the manuscript; however, the content of our study remained the same during the review process.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could go back and do this study again?

We believe that this study served its purpose as an initial foray into the area. In the future, we would like to assess the specific organizational stressors that lead to incivility (e.g. organizational change, work overload) as well as pursue how best to train employees to enhance their Psychological Capital.

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