Workplace incivility, psychological distress, and the protective effect of co-worker support Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Purpose Previous in-depth focus groups found that postal workers employed by a crown corporation in Canada identified a lack of respect in the workplace. A lack of respect or discourteous behavior might be better understood as a phenomenon of workplace incivility. The purpose of this paper is to report a larger cross-sectional survey to determine: the magnitude of workplace incivility among Canadian postal workers; any association between incivility and indicators of worker well-being; and, the potential buffering benefits of social support from co-workers. Design/methodology/approach Questionnaire packages were mailed to nearly 2,000 employees of Canada Post Corporation, asking for anonymous responses to questions about their job, demographics, satisfaction and commitment, treatment in the workplace, and well-being. Findings More than 82 percent of 950 respondents reported at least some workplace incivility. After controlling for demographic and work factors, incivility explained significant variation in worker burnout, anxiety, depression, and hostility (i.e. adjusted R2 values ranged from 5 to 46). In addition, the association between incivility and worker anxiety, depression, and hostility was reduced when workers reported greater social support from co-workers. Research limitations/implications Incivility is more than just a minor or infrequent source of psychological distress for people working in service. However, a positive outcome is that co-worker support helps reduce the adverse effects of rude and discourteous behavior. Originality/value To our knowledge, this was the first large-scale survey exploring workplace incivility in the public postal service. The data from a large sample of postal workers across Canada suggest that the treatment of employees is an ongoing problem at this organization. This research is relevant for understanding workplace interactions and health in the service sector in Canada, though the authors expect it is germane also to other occupations worldwide.

publication date

  • April 3, 2018