Negative Exchange Spirals: A Process Model Of Incivility Among Coworkers
Manegold, Jennifer Grace
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Increasing instances of incivility (e.g. rudeness or disrespect) in the workplace have led to the growing popularity of incivility research within the mistreatment literature. It is believed that incivility may encourage reciprocated behaviors that escalate in intensity. However, the underlying processes by which these `incivility spirals' occur are not yet well understood. Therefore, based on social exchange theory and theories of emotion and organizational justice, I propose and test a multilevel model that examines the effects of daily experienced incivility on daily negative behaviors (e.g. instigated incivility and counterproductive behaviors) via a desire for revenge and state anger. In addition, I discuss and test potential moderators of negative exchange (e.g. narcissism, moral identity, hostile attribution bias, and perceptions of overall fairness) that may accelerate or attenuate the negative exchange process. I also treat time as a moderator to assess whether negative behaviors escalate over time in my sample. I collected surveys once daily for a period of two weeks from part-time workers. Using 741 daily observations from 150 participants, the results of multilevel path analyses indicated support for a positive indirect effect from experienced incivility to both instigated incivility and counterproductive work behaviors via a desire for revenge. In addition, cross-level moderated mediation results demonstrated that perceptions of overall coworker group fairness strengthened the relationship from experienced incivility to a desire for revenge, which then positively related to both instigated incivility and counterproductive work behaviors. Overall, these findings contribute to the larger workplace mistreatment literature, including research on both negative workplace behaviors and organizational justice. Specifically, while a large stream of literature explicates the processes underlying positive social exchange, studying process models of negative exchange allows for a better understanding of when and why negative behaviors may occur in the workplace.