16 May 2024

The need for respect

Unpleasant behaviour at work can have a serious effect on people’s wellbeing, as well as on the productivity and performance of a business. The negative impacts of incidents such as employee bullying, aggression and harassment are well known and have often been the focus of high-profile campaigns.

But researchers have now examined the effects on veterinary workers of incivility – “minor or low-level physical acts” that include ignoring people or making demeaning comments. The study looked at how the type of incivility – direct or indirect – affected the target’s response, as well as how the response changed depending on who had instigated the mistreatment.

More than 180 veterinary workers were given a set of six scenarios and asked to respond to them with their thoughts and some suggested behaviours that could be used. The scenarios involved people being ignored (indirect incivility) or demeaning comments (direct incivility) made by three types of instigator: clients, co-workers and senior colleagues.

When the behaviour was direct, it was more likely to lead to people reporting it and looking for support, while the indirect cases were more likely to be ignored. Participants were also less likely to seek help and support in the scenarios involving co-workers.

The study, published in the journal Ergonomics, said: “From a practical perspective the findings suggest that interventions to manage incivility in veterinary practice should accommodate variation in uncivil behaviours and include tailored responses based on instigator, as a suitable response to direct incivility is not necessarily suitable for indirect behaviours. In addition, it is important to recognise the value of support for targets of incivility, particularly where they may have had to manage their emotional response.”

Read the full paper.