Is your office 'toxic'?

Psychologists decode rise of rudeness at work

Workplace incivility is becoming increasing prevalent throughout U.S. firms as employees try to cope with higher work demands and more fluid job descriptions, according to research presented last weekend at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting.

Researchers from Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion and Toronto, Canada, conducted an online survey of 574 full- or part-time employees. The study authors defined workplace incivility as "a form of organizational deviance … characterized by low-intensity behaviors that violate respectful workplace norms, appearing vague as to intent to harm."

According to the results, 86% of 289 employees at three Midwestern firms reported experiencing incivility on the job. However, the study's co-author notes that incivility is "very hard to target because you don't really know if someone actually means to be rude or if it's just off the cuff, so it's an insidious problem."

Commenting on the findings, another study co-author  suggests that employees become agitated and forgo niceties as companies buy out or lay off workers but still maintain the same level of productivity. According to him, long hours and higher work demands have made workplaces more "toxic" for some people. "A lot of people are working much harder. They've got fluid job descriptions and less role clarity," he notes (Jayson, USA Today, 8/7; UPI, 8/8).


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