Surviving workplace incivility: The use of supportive networks as a coping strategy

Jennifer S Linvill, Purdue University


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 incivility they experience. This study begins to fill this void. Employing a social constructionist meta-theoretical lens, and drawing on data from in-depth interviews, the study unearths the coping strategies that targets (victims) of workplace incivility utilize. The study also reveals various rationalizations that targets employ and the social support mechanisms they utilize, both to help them cope with workplace incivility. A typology of coping strategies is also presented that is based on (a) the target's high or low regard for the organization/job and (b) the target's high or low effort to maintain a relationship the instigator. This study offers several theoretical and practical implications. First, previous research focuses on the behavioral aspects of individual's' responses to workplace incivility and ignores their emotion-focused coping responses. This study uncovers the emotion-focused responses and shows that emotion-focused coping is utilized more frequently than problem-focused coping strategies. Second, this study's qualitative design allowed for a rich description of participant's coping strategies and for the emergence of additional coping techniques. Finally, this study sheds light on how to assist targets with their coping efforts and may allow individuals to formulate ideas regarding how to effectively provide social support to those experiencing workplace incivility.




Connaughton, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Occupational psychology|Mass communications

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