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Andersson LM, Pearson CM. Tit for tat? The spiralling effect of incivility in the workplace. Academy of Management Review. 1999; 24:(3)452-71

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Incivility and its impact

12 November 2020
2 min read
Volume 29 · Issue 20

Across the UK, incivility is becoming increasingly common and, for nursing, its implications are especially harmful. There are many ways in which incivility in the workplace raises its head. Behaviours that can be seen as uncivil range from lack of support to rude, ill-mannered or humiliating comments. It can also include verbal threats. As incivility often goes unrecognised and under-reported, these apparently insignificant behaviours can have far-reaching negative consequences. Andersson and Pearson (1999) defined incivility as actions that violate norms of respect, but whose intent to harm is ambiguous. The intimidating behaviour that comes with incivility affects morale, staff turnover and patient care.

Health and care professionals who are subjected to incivility, even when it is not directed at them, are at risk of being harmed. In complex organisations, such as the hospital environment, incivility can be perpetuated by underlying erroneous beliefs, such as, ‘we work in a high-pressure environment; therefore, it is acceptable to skip the subtleties, the minutiae’. Confronting these beliefs is central to addressing workplace incivility.

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