During the past decade, we have learned a lot about incivility, bullying, and other negative behaviors in the workplace. However, we don’t know much about similar forms of mistreatment in academic settings.
That void is what led Susan Stewart (Western Illinois U. — Quad Cities), Nathan Bowling (Wright State U.), and Melissa Gruys (Wright State U.) to develop a study that asked graduate student members of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) about their experiences with anti-social behaviors by faculty members and fellow students.
Among their key initial findings is that students who reported “more mistreatment have higher levels of depression, intention to leave, and adverse physical symptoms than students reporting less mistreatment from either source.”
This should sound familiar to those who have studied bullying at work. The effects of incivility experienced by these graduate students are very similar to those reported by employees who have been targets of workplace bullying.
I believe this is a very important line of inquiry. When these behaviors are perpetrated (and not infrequently validated) in graduate and professional school settings, those on the receiving end often suffer health consequences and a loss of self-confidence. Some students — targets, bystanders, and perpetrators alike — will adopt the behaviors in their own academic and professional lives. In such cases, co-workers, clients, patients, and customers also will pay a price down the road.
Awareness training could help to prevent these behaviors. For severe situations such as targeted bullying and sexual harassment, concrete sanctions may be appropriate. In sum, academe should zealously guard freedom of expression, but not to the point of being complicit in abusive behaviors.
I’m devoting several posts this week to responses and ideas sparked by papers presented at a panel on April 15 as part of SIOP’s annual conference in Chicago. The panel, which centered on research approaches to understanding incivility, was organized by doctoral student Benjamin Walsh and Professor Vicki Magley of the University of Connecticut’s industrial/organizational psychology program.
I was privileged to serve as the discussant on the panel, offering comments on each of the papers. It is exciting to see graduate students and professors examining these aspects of work and workplaces via their research studies and dissertations.