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Incivility in the Workplace: Types, Examples

Incivility in the workplace is a specific type of corporate aggression that is characterized by abusive behavior from managers, supervisors, or colleagues against employees on a permanent basis. It includes the employers or co-workers’ constant ridiculing and berating of colleagues or employees, ignoring their requests and needs, avoiding conversations, addressing them in an inappropriate manner, and refusing to encourage their hard work (Abid, Khan, Rafiq, & Ahmed, 2015).

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There is a commonly held opinion that the most suitable solution to such work-related problems may be the worker’s retaliation or quit. However, due to global economic recessions that negatively affect the employment situation, the prevalent number of talented workers decide to digest substantively widespread abusive behavior from their managers.

There are several types of incivility that include verbal-passive, verbal-active, physical-passive, and physical-active levels of inappropriate aggression in the workplace. Verbal-passive incivility may be divided into indirect (a lack of interest in all kinds of explanation) and direct (the intentional ignorance of all contacts). Verbal-active incivility may be represented in any form – from the dissemination of rumors and false information about colleagues to open verbal confrontations.

Physical-passive abusive behavior is characterized by the attempts to hide the employee’s underperformance or prejudice a team against one co-worker. Physical-active workplace incivility may be regarded as the most harmful level of corporate aggression as it is connected with either stealing or destroying of the organization’s property or the abuser’s physical attacks.

Unfortunately, I became the witness of the workplace incivility against my close friend, who works as a nurse practitioner in a large hospital, from his supervisor. Supposedly, the manager was permanently and exhausted due to operation loads as he was in charge of multiple duties besides his work with nurse practitioners who started their practice direct after graduation. Nevertheless, my friend constantly experienced mockery concerning his age and a lack of qualifications and experience, cold communication, and ignorance as the answer to the substantial number of his questions. He suffered several months until this supervisor got the position in another department of the hospital.

Despite the fact that I did not experience this workplace incivility personally and could not respond, I had a wide range of emotions concerning this situation. I imagined myself in the place of my friend, and the first feeling I would feel was guilt. When you receive a negative attitude from a person who has more experience, you automatically start to think you do wrong things. However, with time I would definitely feel anger as my practice was successful though I still received aggression or ignorance from my supervisor. I believe that this person could have his reasons for such behavior – physically and emotionally demanding work, stress, or problems with a family or health. Probably, a trust-based conversation non-related to work between the administer and his supervisees would be able to improve their relationships.

The workforce incivility has a significant negative effect on work outcomes. Considering the current market situation when the successful development of any organization depends on the effective team operation, incivility encourages unstable relationships between colleagues and decreased productivity (Abid, Khan, Rafiq, & Ahmed, 2015). Incivility damages the employees’ psychological and physical health and causes depression and anxiety (Abid, Khan, Rafiq, & Ahmed, 2015).

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However, there are possible ways to establish a healthy work environment. First of all, all colleagues should start to control their own behavior as everyone should give what he or she expects to get in return. Moreover, inappropriate behavior should be noticed and discussed as soon as possible, as in most cases, it has in-depth and personal reasons, and an abuser may be in need of help.


Abid, G., Khan, B., Rafiq, Z., & Ahmed, A. (2015). Workplace incivility: Uncivil activities, antecedents, consequences, and level of incivility. Science International, 27(6), 6307-6312.

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