This research investigates the elicitors and behavioral responses associated with feeling guilt and shame in response to observed workplace incivility. We draw from the appraisal model of selfconscious emotions to hypothesize that perceiving personal responsibility for acts of incivility conducted by others in the organization is associated with feelings of guilt and shame, and that these relationships are differentially moderated by perceived controllability over the incident. We further propose that shame is associated with avoidance and withdrawal behaviors, whereas guilt is associated with retaliatory and supportive behaviors in response to the observed incivility. We tested these hypotheses with a sample of 309 full-time working adults who completed an online survey through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform. Our results support the claim that perceived responsibility is associated with feeling shame and guilt for observed incivility. The relationship between perceived responsibility and guilt was stronger when respondents perceived greater control over the incident; however, controllability did not moderate between responsibility and shame. As expected, shame was associated with avoiding the target and instigator and withdrawing from work, while guilt was associated with both retaliation toward the instigator and supporting the target. Implications of our results for theory and human resource development practice are discussed.
Miranda, G. A., Welbourne, J. L., & Sariol, A. M. (2020). Feeling shame and guilt when observing workplace incivility: Elicitors and behavioral responses. Human Resource Development Quarterly. https://doi.org/10.1002/hrdq.21395
Human Resource Development Quarterly