Tag Archives: stress

Costs of Workplace Incivility

Christine Pearson

A single incident of incivility in the workplace can result in significant operational costs, reported Christine Pearson of Thunderbird School of Global Management and Christine Porath of Georgetown University.
They cited consequences including:

  • Intentional decrease in work effort due to disengagement (48% affected employees),

    Christine Porath

    Christine Porath

  • Intentional decrease time at work to reduce contact with perpetrator (47%),
  • Lost work time due to worrying about the incident (80%),
  • Lost work productivity due to avoiding the perpetrator (63%),
  • Reduced commitment to the organization after the incident (78%),
  • Attrition (12% change jobs).

Less tangible organizational symptoms include:

  • Increased consumer complaints,
  • Cultural and communications barriers,
  • Lack of confidence in leadership,
  • Inability to adapt effectively to change,
  • Lack of individual accountability.

Workplace incivility behaviors are typically “rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others,” noted Pearson and Lynne Andersson, then of St. Joseph’s University.
Specific behaviors deemed “uncivil”, acceptable, and violent were enumerated in The Baltimore Workplace Civility Study by Johns Hopkins’ P.M. Forni and Daniel L. Buccino with David Stevens and Treva Stack of University of Baltimore.

 P.M. Forni

P.M. Forni

Respondents agreed that unacceptable, “uncivil” behaviors include:

  • Taking a co-worker’s food from the office refrigerator without asking (93%),
  • Refusing to collaborate on a team project (90%),
  • Shifting blame for an error to a co-worker (88%),
  • Reading another’s mail (88%),
  • Neglecting to say “please,” “thank you” (88%).

Fewer respondents evaluated the following items as “acceptable workplace behavior:”

  • Taking the last cup of coffee without making a new pot (20%),
  • Not returning telephone calls and/or e-mails (17%),
  • Ignoring a co-worker (12%).

Respondents classified the following unacceptable behaviors as “violent”:

  • Pushing a co-worker during an argument (85%),
  • Yelling at a co-worker (59%),
  • Firing a subordinate during a disagreement (41%),
  • Criticizing a subordinate in public (34%),
  • Using foul language in the workplace (28%).
Gary Namie

Gary Namie

Workplace bullying was also included in the Campaign Against Workplace Bullying  report by Gary Namie.
He defined bullying as “the deliberate repeated, hurtful verbal mistreatment of a person (target) by a cruel perpetrator (bully).

His survey of more than 1300 respondents found that:

  • More than one-third of respondents observed bullying in the previous two years,
  • More than 80% of perpetrators were workplace supervisors,
  • Women bullied as frequently as men (50% of perpetrators),
  • Women were targets of bullying 75% of the time,
  • Few bullies were punished, transferred, or terminated from jobs (7%).

Quantifiable costs of health-related symptoms experienced by bullying targets included:

  • Depression (41%),
  • Sleep loss, anxiety, inability to concentrate (80%), which reduced work productivity,
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among 31% of women and 21% of men,
  • Frequent rumination about past bullying, leading to inattention, poor concentration, and reduced productivity (79%).

Choosing Civility
Widespread prevalence of workplace incivility was noted by Forni, who offered specific suggestions to improve workplace interactions and inclusion:

  • Assume that others have positive intentions,
  • Pay attention, listen,
  • Be agreeable, inclusive,
  • Speak kindly, avoid complaints,
  • Acknowledge others, accept and give praise,
  • Respect others’ opinions, time, space, indirect refusals,
  • Embrace silence, avoid personal questions, be selective in asking for favors,
  • Apologize earnestly,
  • Assert yourself, provide criticism constructively,
  • Respect others by attending to grooming, health, environment,
  • Accept responsibility and blame, if deserved.

More than 95% of respondents in The Baltimore Workplace Civility Study suggested an aspirational and sometimes challenging intervention: “Keep stress and fatigue at manageable levels.”

Structural and process change recommentations include:

  • Instituting a grievance process to investigate and address complaints of incivility (95%),
  • Selecting prospective employees with effective interpersonal skills in (91%),
  • Clear, written policy on interpersonal conduct (90%),
  • Adopting flexibility in scheduling, assignments, and work-life issues (90%).

-*How do you handle workplace incivility when you observe or experience it?

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Workplace Incivility is Contagious, Damaging

James Bartlett

James Bartlett

Workplace incivility has numerous well-known consequences including reduced employee engagement and productivity, summarized by North Carolina State University’s James E. Bartlett and Michelle E. Bartlett with Florida Atlantic University’s Thomas G. Reio.

Trevor Foulk

Trevor Foulk

Rudeness in the workplace is also contagious and leads people to be vigilant for subsequent slights, reported University of Florida’s Trevor Foulk, Andrew Woolum, and Amir Erez.
They suggested that low-level workplace hostility enables similar behavior throughout the organization, eroding culture and productivity.

Andrew Woolum

Andrew Woolum

Ninety volunteers practiced negotiation with partners, and those who rated their initial negotiation partner as rude were more likely to be rated as rude by a subsequent partner.

This suggests that people assimilated and conveyed the first partner’s rudeness, and the effect persisted during the week between the first and second negotiations.

Amir Erez

Amir Erez

Foulk’s team presented staged interactions between an apologetic late-arriving participant and the study leader, who responded neutrally or rudely.
Then, volunteers distinguished real words from nonsense words in a timed task.

Participants who observed the leader’s rude response more quickly identified actual rude words than participants who had observed the neutral interaction.
This suggests that observing rude interactions “prime” people’s awareness and sensitivity to future uncivil interactions.

Walter Mischel

Walter Mischel

People who witnessed rudeness were more likely to be rude to others, confirming the powerful impact of observing physical on future behavior, demonstrated more than 50 years ago by Stanford’s Walter Mischel, Dorothea Ross and Sheila Ross.

Mischel's experiment with Bobo doll

Mischel’s experiment with Bobo doll

This priming effect of rudeness was demonstrated in another of study by Foulk’s group.
Volunteers watched a video of a rude workplace interaction, then answered a fictitious customer neutral-toned email.
Their responses were more likely to be hostile than those who viewed a polite interaction before responding.

Rudeness will flavor the way you interpret ambiguous cues,” noted Foulk, who contends that workplace harshness makes employees less likely to give colleagues “the benefit of the doubt.”
The viral spread of even low-level rudeness can reduce collaboration and trust in the workplace.

-*How do you stop the spread of workplace incivility?

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Anxiety Linked to Risk of Behaving Unethically

Sreedhari Desai

Sreedhari Desai

People who feel anxious are more likely to act with self-interested unethical behavior, according to University of North Carolina’s Sreedhari Desai and Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern.

Anxious individuals were more willing to:

  • -Participate in unethical actions in hypothetical scenarios,

-Engage in more lying and cheating to make money.

Maryam Kouchaki

Maryam Kouchaki


Anxiety was also associated with increased threat perception and decreased concern about personal unethical actions in simulated subordinate–supervisor pairs.

Desai noted that “Individuals who feel anxious and threatened can take on self-defensive behaviors and focus narrowly on their own basic needs and self-interest.
This can cause them to be less mindful of principles that guide ethical and moral reasoning – and make them rationalize their own actions as acceptable
.”

Charles Carver

Charles Carver

People may engage in unethical behaviors because circumventing rules provides more options and greater control over outcomes, surmised University of Miami’s Charles Carver and Michael Scheier of Carnegie Mellon.
This experience can lead to feelings of greater autonomy and influence, particularly in ambiguous situations, according to Ohio State’s  Roy Lewicki.

Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier

Once people do experience ethical lapses such as cheating, they can experience a cheater’s high,‘ described by University of Washington’s Nicole E. Ruedy, Celia Moore of London Business School, Harvard’s Francesca Gino, and Maurice E. Schweitzer of Wharton.
Separately, University of California, San Francisco’s Paul Ekman referred to cheaters’ exuberance as this as “duping delight.”

Roy Lewicki

Roy Lewicki

Ruedy’s team demonstrated that cheaters experienced emotional uplift and self-satisfaction instead of the guilt and bad feelings these participants predicted.

Nicole Ruedy

Nicole Ruedy

Almost 180 people completed a four-minute anagram task to earn $1 for every correctly unscrambled word.
Then, they rated their current affect – positive and negative – both before and after the task.

Celia Moore

Celia Moore

Volunteers’ actual answers were compared from imprints between their answer sheets to determine which participants reported inaccurate results.

Cheating was frequent:  More than 40% cheated by writing in additional answers to increase their earnings.
These participants reported significantly greater positive feelings after cheating on the task.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Even when Ruedy’s team signaled to volunteers that researchers knew participants may be providing inaccurate reports in an insoluble anagram task, more than half the participants reported implausibly high scores.

Cheaters had higher levels of positive affect even when confronted with the team’s awareness of their potential cheating.
They also and showed higher levels of self-satisfaction (feeling clever, capable, accomplished, satisfied, superior).

Earning more money didn’t add to the “cheater’s high,” suggesting a top threshold for positive feelings associated with cheating:  Cheaters didn’t feel substantially better when they earned more money on an anagram task.

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

These findings suggest the importance of moderating ambient anxiety in organizations, both to increase employee quality-of-life, and reduce unethical workplace behaviors that could undermine individual careers and organizational reputation.

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman

Organizational leaders can reduce anxiety by increasing role clarity through:

  • Setting realistic expectations for employee workload,
  • Adopting Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and flex time,
  • Emphasizing the value of experimentation, flexibility, and innovation, and supporting with collaborative workspaces.

-*How have you seen high-anxiety workplaces affect employees’ ethical judgment?

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Stress Increases Women’s Performance and Empathic Attunement, but not Men’s

Livia Tomova

Livia Tomova

Task performance, social interaction skills, and empathic attunement increase for women under stress, but not for men.
Women seek social support (“become prosocial”), but men turn toward themselves and away from others when they experience stress, according to University of Vienna’s Livia Tomova and Claus Lamm with Bernadette von Dawans and Markus Heinrichs of University of Freiburg, and Giorgia Silani, International School for Advanced Studies, SISSA-ISAS, Trieste

Claus Lamm

Claus Lamm

Tomova’s team evaluated the impact of stress on 20 women and 20 men, elicited by Clemens Kirschbaum, Karl-Martin Pirke, and Dirk Hellhammer’s (Universität) Trier Social Stress Test, in which participants delivered a speech and performed mental arithmetic in front of an audience.

Bernadette von Dawans

Bernadette von Dawans

Tomova and team measured “self-other distinctions” during three types of tasks:

  • Imitated movements  (perceptual-motor task): “Move objects on a shelf according to the instructions of a director,” requiring participants to “disentangle their own visual perspective” from that of the director,
  • Identifying  one’s  own  emotions or  other  people’s  emotions  (emotional  task),  or
  • Making a judgment from another person’s perspective (cognitive task).
Markus Heinrichs

Markus Heinrichs

As a comparison, 20 men and 20 women completed non-stressful activities like “easy counting.”

Women and men showed similar physiological reactions to stress, but stress decreased men’s performance in all tasks.
In contrast, women’s performance on all tasks improved under stress

Giorgia Silani

Giorgia Silani

Specifically, women who experienced stress demonstrated more accurate understanding of others’ perspective than non-stressed women and men.
However, men under stress showed less ability to accurately detect others’ probable thoughts and feelings.

Walter Cannon

Walter Cannon

Studies of stress were pioneered by Harvard’s Walter Cannon, who described the fight-or-flight response in1914, and popularized by Hans Selye of Université de Montréal.  

Hans Selye

Hans Selye

People can cope with stress by:

  • Seeking social support or
  • Reducing “internal cognitive load” that requires additional coping efforts.

One way to reduce “internal cognitive load” is to disconnect from others’ perspective and emotional experience through reducing empathy.
Besides this process of “mentalizing,” empathy also requires people to distinguish their representations of themselves from representations of others.

Clemens Kirschbaum

Clemens Kirschbaum

Women under stress “flexibly disambiguate” mental representations of themselves from others and increase “self-other distinction,” found Tomova’s research group.
This cognitive style enables women to more accurately perceive others’ perspective, enabling more empathic interaction with others in a “tend-and-befriend” approach.

In contrast, men under stress typically turn inward with “increased egocentricity” to conserve mental and emotional resources for “flight-or-flight” responses, leading to less adaptive social interactions.

Dirk Hellhammer

Dirk Hellhammer

These differences may be rooted in gender-specific learning experiences and biological differences including higher levels of oxytocin (a hormone that mediates social behaviors) among women who experienced stress, noted Tomova’s research team.
As a result, women may seek more frequently seek social support, may interact with others more empathically, and may be rewarded with external help in a reinforcing cycle.

Nikolas Rose

Nikolas Rose

Social support can improve performance and reduce stress, probably because the brain is “wired for sociality,” according to King’s College London’s Nikolas Rose and Joelle Abi-Rached of Harvard.

Gender differences in performance under stress are associated with different styles of “sociality” and empathic insight.

-*How do you maintain task performance and “Emotional Intelligence” of empathy when experiencing stress?

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Facades of Conformity and Surface Acting: Stress for Women, Minorities

David Wagner

David Wagner

When employees mask their true feelings in work situations, they may engage in “surface acting” — or displaying appropriate, but unfelt facial expressions, verbal interactions, and body language.

Christopher Barnes

Christopher Barnes

Surface acting at work was associated with emotional exhaustion, work-to-family conflict, and insomnia outside of work for more than 70 volunteers in a high stress public service occupation, according to Singapore Management University’s David T. Wagner, Christopher M. Barnes of University of Washington and Brent A. Scott of Michigan State University.

Arlie Hochschild

Arlie Hochschild

Emotional labor” is Arlie Hochshild’s earlier term for “surface acting” in customer service interactions, in which employees present prescribed verbalizations and emotions, even when they are not genuinely felt.

She contrasted “surface acting” with “deep acting” in which the person:

  • Exhibits the emotion actually felt,
  •                              Uses past emotional experiences to elicit real emotion and empathic connection with others, in a form of “organizational method acting.
Christina Maslach

Christina Maslach

Surface acting can lead to occupational “burnout,” characterized by emotional exhaustion and detachment from others and reduced workplace performance, noted University of California Berkeley’s Christina Maslach and Susan Jackson.

In addition, Recipients of “surface acting” usually detect that it’s an inauthentic display, according to University of Tampere Veikko Surakka and Jari K Hietanen of University of Helsinki.

Celeste Brotheridge

Celeste Brotheridge

By contrast, deep acting has been associated with a greater sense of personal accomplishment in research by University of Regina’s Celeste Brotheridge and Alicia Grandey of Penn State.

Patricia Hewlin

Patricia Hewlin

Surface Acting can also take a toll, resulting in generalized stress and reduced quality of life outside of work, according to Georgetown’s Patricia Hewlin, and supported by separate findings by University of Lethbridge’s Karen H. Hunter, Andrew A. Luchak of University of Alberta and Athabasca University’s Kay Devine.

They identified stress-inducing behaviors including:

Even people not performing customer-facing roles may encounter situations in which they must behave in “appropriate” ways inconsistent with their true feelings, and experience similar stress spillover from “surface acting” at work.

-*How do you prevent “burnout” when workplace settings seem to require “surface acting”?

-*In what organizational contexts have you observed “Facades of Conformity” and their consequences?

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Reduce Rumination, Stress by Taking a Walk in Nature, Viewing Animals

More than 50% of people live in urban environments and most have relatively infrequent contact with nature, according to research published by the United Nations.

Theo Lorenc

Theo Lorenc

One consequence is that many urban dwellers with decreased exposure to nature report “changes in psychological functioning” including ruminative thoughts – repetitive thoughts about negative aspects of the self – and depressed feelings, found University College London’s Theo Lorenc, Mark Petticrew, and Steven Cummins with Stephen Clayton of University of Central Lancaster, and David Neary of University of Manchester, University of Liverpool’s Margaret Whitehead, Hilary Thomson of University of Glasgow,  University of York’s Amanda Jayne Sowden, and Adrian Renton of University of East London.

Stephen Clayton

Stephen Clayton

Contact with nature can affect cognitive performance as well as emotional experience: Children living in urban environments with consistent views of nature outside their windows, performed better on:

  • Working memory (backward digit span, backward alphabet span),
  • Impulse inhibition (matching familiar figures task),
  • Selective attention (Stroop color-word task),
  • Concentration (Necker Cube pattern control task), reported by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Andrea Faber Taylor, Frances Kuo, and William C. Sullivan.
Andrea Faber Taylor

Andrea Faber Taylor

Urban environments are thought to require substantial top-down voluntary attentional control to filter relevant from irrelevant stimuli.
At the same time, built landscapes can deplete cognitive resources, worsening performance on tasks requiring focused attention, noted University of Uppsala’s Terry HartigGary W. Evans of University of California, Irvine with Marlis Mang of Planning & Design Solutions.

Terry Hartig

Terry Hartig

Walking for 90 minutes in nature reduced ruminationblood flow, and neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC), reported Stanford’s Gregory N. Bratman, Kevin S. Hahn, Gretchen C. Daily, and James J. Gross with J. Paul Hamilton of Laureate Institute for Brain Research.
This brain area has been linked to self-focused behavioral withdrawal and rumination among both healthy and depressed people.

Gregory Bratman

Gregory Bratman

More than 35 volunteers rated their proneness to ruminate with negative thoughts, then half walked alone for 90-minutes without music through undeveloped open space hills through grassland with scattered shrubs and oak trees along a paved path.
They were told to take ten photographs of “whatever captured their attention” to disguise the study’s hypotheses.

Urban vs Rural Walks

Kevin Hahn

Kevin Hahn

Remaining participants walked alone without music down a busy, paved six-lane road with traffic for the same time period.

Following the walks, volunteers again rated their likelihood to repeatedly think negative thoughts.
They also completed a brain scan and cognitive and emotional assessment instruments including:

Lee Anna Clark

Lee Anna Clark

Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) developed by Southern Methodist University’s David Watson, with Lee Anna Clark and Auke Tellegen of University of Minnesota,

Backward digit span, developed by David Wechsler of Bellevue Hospital,

Jin Fan

Jin Fan

Attention Network Task (ANT- executive attention subtest), developed by Mount Sinai’s Jin Fan, Bruce D. McCandliss and John Fossella of Cornell, Yale’s Jonathan I. Flombaum and Michael I. Posner of University of Oregon,

Rumination-Reflection Questionnaire (RRQ) by Ohio State’s Paul Trapnell and Jennifer Campbell, including items like “I often reflect on episodes of my life that I should no longer concern myself with”),

Nash Unsworth

Nash Unsworth

Operation Span Task (OSPAN) developed by Georgia Tech’s Nash Unsworth, Richard Heitz and and Randall Engle with Josef Schrock o Marysville College,

State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), developed by University of South Florida’s Charles D. Spielberger, 

Visuospatial working memory (change detection), developed by University of Iowa’s Steven J. Luck and Edward K. Vogel,

Rx to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk: Listen to Music

Charalambos Vlachopoulos

Charalambos Vlachopoulos

Listening to music, both classical and rock, decreases aortic stiffness and wave reflection to reduce cardiovascular risk of death and disability, according to Athens Medical School’s Charalambos Vlachopoulos with Angelos Aggelakas, Nikolaos Ioakeimidis, Panagiotis Xaplanteris, Dimitrios Terentes-Printzios, Mahmoud Abdelrasoul, George Lazaros, and Dimitris Tousoulis.

Panagiotis Xaplanteris

Panagiotis Xaplanteris

Even “a brief period of mental stress can have an enduring effect on arterial stiffness,” Vlachopoulos and colleagues noted, suggesting the value of music listening as a health intervention to decrease stress and cardiovascular risk.

Dimitris Tousoulis

Dimitris Tousoulis

The team compared aortic stiffness and carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (PWV) reflections for 20 healthy volunteers after a half-hour rest period.
Then, participants were divided into three groups that listened to a half-hour of:

  • Classical music including excerpts from J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suites OR
  • Rock featuring selections by Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Green Day OR
  • Silence.

Cardiovascular measurements were recorded immediately after the different auditory conditions, and then again after 30 minutes.

Liisa Ukkola-Vuoti

Liisa Ukkola-Vuoti

Participants who listened to either musical genre had lower aortic stiffness immediately after the music, and wave reflection was reduced for at least 30 minutes after the music.
This effect was even greater for those who preferred classical music, whether they listened to rock or classical selections.

Chakravarthi Kanduri

Chakravarthi Kanduri

Music’s “whole body experience” begins with genes:  Musical receptivity, perception, and creativity were linked to gene clusters and duplicate DNA associated with the brain’s serotonin systems in research by University of Helsinki’s Liisa Ukkola-Vuoti, Chakravarthi Kanduri, Jaana Oikkonen, Gemma Buck, Pirre Raijas, Kai Karma, and Irma Järvelä, collaborating with Christine Blancher of Oxford Genomics Centre and Aalto University’s Harri Lähdesmäki.

Jaana Oikkonen

Jaana Oikkonen

They found that neurotransmitter systems enable brain plasticity and connectivity in the brain’s posterior cingulate cortex.

Yi Ting Tan

Yi Ting Tan

Several chromosomes contain specific areas associated with musical perception, found University of Melbourne’s Yi Ting Tan, Gary McPherson, Samuel Berkovic, and Sarah Wilson, collaborating with Isabelle Peretz from University of Montreal.

Isabelle Peretz

Isabelle Peretz

They detected several locations on chromosome 4 tied to music perception and singing, and a specific area on chromosome 8q is implicated in music perception and absolute pitch.
In addition chromosome 12q’s gene AVPR1A was linked to music perception, music memory, and music listening, whereas SLC6A4 on chromosome 17q was associated with music memory.

These findings suggest music listening can be an easy, enjoyable way to enhance arterial function and cardiovascular health.

-*What physical effects do you notice when listening to your preferred musical genre?

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