Rudeness rationales: evaluating a new measure.
Subject: Occupational health and safety (Evaluation)
Work environment (Evaluation)
Authors: Leiter, Michael P.
Laschinger, Heather K. Spence
Day, Arla
Oore, Debra Gilin
Pub Date: 05/01/2011
Publication: Name: Journal of Healthcare Management Publisher: American College of Healthcare Executives Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business; Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 American College of Healthcare Executives ISSN: 1096-9012
Issue: Date: May-June, 2011 Source Volume: 56 Source Issue: 3
Product: Product Code: 8000500 Employee Health & Safety NAICS Code: 62 Health Care and Social Assistance
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Canada Geographic Code: 1CANA Canada
Accession Number: 271594422
Full Text: AUTHORS. Michael P. Leiter, PhD, Canada research chair in occupational health and well-being, Centre for Organizational Research and Development, Acadia University; Heather K. Spence Laschinger, RN, PhD, FCAHS, distinguished university professor, University of Western Ontario; Arla Day, PhD, Canada research chair in organizational psychology, Psychology Department, Saint Mary's University; Debra Gilin Oore, PhD, Psychology Department, Saint Mary's University

GOALS. Because rudeness and incivility in the workplace occur frequently, with negative effects on employee health, performance, and well-being (Cortina et al. 2001; Lira, Cortina, and Magley 2008), and because the individual rationales to justify one's own uncivil behaviors have not been examined, our goals were to identify the primary rationales that people use to justify rude behavior toward others at work and to develop and validate a scale that measures these rudeness rationales.

METHODS. We conducted focus groups with healthcare providers about the types of rationales that are used to justify and perpetuate rude behaviors. We then surveyed 729 nurses working in five hospital districts in Canada as part of a larger project on improving civility within work groups. The questionnaires included measures of experienced incivility from coworkers and supervisors and of instigated incivility toward others and also included our new Rudeness Rationales Scale to assess cognitions that justify behaving rudely towards colleagues.

PRINCIPAL FINDINGS. Results supported a three-factor structure, such that perceived rude behaviors are a function of (1) increased pressures at work, (2) being tough with people, and (3) an excessive sensitivity on behalf of the victim (i.e., a denial of rudeness as misperception). As expected, the sensitivity rationale was used to a greater degree than the other two rationales, and the toughness rationale was used to a greater degree than the pressures rationale. The rationales were associated with increased instigated incivility, even after controlling for supervisor and coworker incivility, with the pressures rationale having the strongest relationship with instigated incivility.

Together, these findings support the potential for cognitive factors to play a role in perpetuating incivility among colleagues at work. The differentiation among the three rationales describes distinct strategies for maintaining self-esteem when behavior becomes inconsistent with ideals. By using rationales to reinterpret behavior retrospectively, people maintain a sense that they are behaving appropriately and not contributing to problems within the workgroup.

APPLICATIONS TO PRACTICE. Improving the quality of collegial relationships has become a pressing issue for healthcare leaders to support their pursuit of optimizing the productivity of healthcare teams and reducing workplace incivility, bullying, and abuse. Assessing rationales across a workgroup or an organization may provide useful indicators of the organizational culture as it pertains to civility and respect among colleagues. Interventions to improve collegiality, such as the CREW approach (Leiter, Laschinger, Day, and Gilin Oore, in press) would benefit from a deeper understanding of the cognitive processes that perpetuate incivility at work.

CONTACT. Michael P. Leiter,


Cortina, L. M., V. I. Magley, J. H. Williams, and R. D. Langhout. 2001. "Incivility in the Workplace: Incidence and Impact." Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 6, 64-80.

Leiter, M. P., H. K. S. Laschinger, A. Day, and D. Gilin Oore. In press. "The Impact of Civility Interventions on Employee Social Behavior, Distress, and Attitudes." Journal of Applied Psychology.

Lim, S., L. M. Cortina, and V. J. Magley. 2008. "Personal and Workgroup Incivility: Impact on Work and Health Outcomes." Journal of Applied Psychology 93, 95-107.
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