The Effects of Confrontation and Avoidance Coping in Response to Workplace Incivility

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Abstract

Workplace incivility has significant adverse consequences for targets. However, we know remarkably little about how targets of incivility cope and even less about which coping strategies are effective. Drawing on the coping process of the transactional model of stress, we examine confrontation as a form of problem-focused coping and avoidance as a form of emotion-focused coping in response to incivility. We examine the effects of these coping strategies on reoccurrence of incivility, incivility enacted by targets, psychological forgiveness, and emotional exhaustion. Focusing on the target’s perspective of a series of uncivil interactions between a target and perpetrator, we conducted a 3-wave study of employees from various occupations. Employing the critical incident technique, participants reported on an incident of workplace incivility, and then answered a series of questions over 3 waves of data collection regarding their interactions with this perpetrator. Our findings suggest that confrontation and avoidance are ineffective in preventing reoccurrence of incivility. Avoidance can additionally lead to increased emotional exhaustion, target-enacted incivility, and lower psychological forgiveness. However, confrontation coping has promise with regards to eliciting positive outcomes such as psychological forgiveness that are beneficial to interpersonal workplace relationships.

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