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More Workplace Empathy from Same Sex Co-Workers

In an era of increased competition and economic pressure, some workplaces can seem like a battlefield.  Many workers may have observed a colleague being chastised or denigrated by a supervisor, and for some, the attack has been personal.

Provocative new research suggests our subsequent feelings and actions vary by gender and are different depending on whether the coworker is male or female.

Investigators from Texas A&M and Buena Vista University discovered workers who witness incivility towards colleagues feel negative emotions – especially when the incivility is aimed at workers of the same sex.

The study, by Kathi Miner, Ph.D., and Angela Eischeid, analyzes the relationship between employees’ observations of incivility towards same-gender co-workers and negative emotions.

Experts say that workplace incivility or rudeness is commonplace and violates conventional workplace norms for mutual respect. The behavior also displays a lack of regard for others. Although our first thoughts are likely to be for the victim of this “abuse,” it can also affect our own feelings as observers.

In the study, a total of 453 restaurant employees responded to an online survey examining the “quality of life in the restaurant industry.” Investigators examined how observed workplace incivility towards female and male co-workers relates to four negative emotions — anger, demoralization, fear and anxiety — for both female and male observers.

Researchers determined that female observers reported significantly higher levels of anger, demoralization, fear and anxiety when they observed other female employees being treated rudely and discourteously at work. Demoralization was the strongest negative emotion experienced by observing women.

Similarly, male observers were significantly angrier, fearful and anxious the more they observed other men being treated uncivilly at work, compared to females. Interestingly, demoralization was not a negative emotion experienced by male observers in these situations.

Researchers believe the observations accurately depict the gender differences in how individuals respond to personal attacks upon both themselves and others.

The authors conclude: “Our results paint a complex picture about the experience of specific negative emotions in response to observed incivility toward same gender co-workers.

“In some cases, women are more affected (demoralized) and in others, men are more affected (angry, fearful and anxious).”

The study is published online in Springer’s journal Sex Roles.

Source: Springer

More Workplace Empathy from Same Sex Co-Workers

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). More Workplace Empathy from Same Sex Co-Workers. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 12 Jan 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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