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Incivility in the Office – Women Work Harder and Men Call in Sick


Office life is often stressful. It’s work, after all. And sometimes that means never ending phone calls, deadlines and meetings. Unfortunately, stressful offices can turn into downright unbearable atmospheres if you add incivility and disrespect into the mix. You may find it interesting that men and women handle this type of stress a bit differently.

According to research from Edith Cowan University and the University of New England, men and women react to general incivility, rudeness, and disrespect in the office quite differently.

The Australian study examined 317 white-collar employees and how they responded to incivility. Acts of incivility were defined as gossiping, texting during meetings, rolling eyes at ones’ suggestions, insulting colleagues and general rudeness, also known as workplace bullying. According to the study, women tend to work harder under these conditions, while men are more likely to call in sick or take a break.


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Because of a fair amount of gender inequality that still seems to be hanging around, women are less likely to be in “power” positions. The bigger the imbalance, the larger the chance of these types of incivility to occur in the office.

Dr. Jennifer Loh, ECU School of Psychology and Social Science Senior Lecturer, says that part of the reason that women react to incivility by working harder is because women tend to focus on “good personal and social relationship[s] with colleagues” and are more likely to try to improve the relationships.  Additionally, women are more likely to attempt passive coping strategies and to try and stop the behavior rather than to punish the person who is doing the harassing.

Men however, are generally perceived as the “bread winners”  of their families, which carries over into their professional identities. When faced with uncivil behavior, men are inclined to take a stab at heading off the problem early, withdrawing from work, or simply retaliating by calling in sick.

Bullying in the workplace is not only stressful to employees but harmful to the overall well-being of the office. In dealing with workplace incivility, there has to be a middle ground between working harder and calling in sick. If not, maybe men have the right idea on this one.

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! How do you deal with workplace bullying? Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments!

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(Photo Credit: By Becky Wetherington BLW Photography on Flickr [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Christina Majaski
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