Coping with Workplace Incivility

A Qualitative Study of the Strategies Targets Utilize

Authored by: Jennifer S. Linvill , Stacey L. Connaughton

The Routledge Handbook of Communication and Bullying

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138552357
eBook ISBN: 9781315148113
Adobe ISBN:


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Workplace incivility has become a pervasive issue in organizations across multiple sectors and industries. Yet, despite a growing body of literature on workplace incivility, little empirical research exists on how targets (victims) of workplace incivility cope with the instances of incivility that they experience. This study begins to fill this void. Employing a social constructionist meta-theoretical lens, and drawing on data from in-depth interviews, this study unearths the coping strategies that targets of workplace incivility utilize. The study also reveals various justifications that targets employ and the social support mechanisms they utilize to help them cope with workplace incivility. We also present a typology of coping strategies based on (1) the target’s high or low regard for the organization/job and (2) the target’s high or low effort to maintain a relationship with the instigator. This study offers both theoretical and practical implications. First, previous research focuses on problem-focused aspects of individual’s responses to workplace incivility. This study uncovers that emotion-focused responses are utilized more frequently than problem-focused coping strategies. Second, this study’s qualitative design provides a rich description of participants' coping strategies and facilitates the emergence of additional problem- and emotion-focused coping techniques. Third, this study uncovers communicative coping techniques that have not previously been empirically explored within organizational contexts. Finally, this study sheds light on how to assist targets with their coping efforts and may allow individuals and organizations to formulate ideas regarding how to effectively provide social support to those who experience workplace incivility.

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