Misreatment at Work Affects Home Life

Do you have a coworker who is rude to you? Ignores you? Is condescending to you? If so, that’s called coworker incivility and it is probably not only affecting your satisfaction with and performance at work, but also your home life. In a recent study, Meredith Ferguson (2012) investigated if and how coworker incivility affects the marital satisfaction of both the target of workplace incivility and the target’s partner. She was also interested in the role that stress might play in the spillover effects from coworker incivility.


Ferguson collected data from 190 workers and their partners. She found that coworker incivility led to stress that transferred to the family domain; both the target and the target’s partner reported lower levels of marital satisfaction due to the extra stress. The target’s partner also experienced more family-to-work conflict, probably because the partner was taking on more responsibilities to help alleviate the stress of the target.


From an organizational perspective, several implications from this research should be noted. In addition to poor organizational outcomes (e.g., lower work satisfaction, absenteeism), coworker incivility can also lead to negative effects for the target’s home life. In turn, having work-to-family conflict can lead to family-to-work conflict; in other words, negative spillover from workplace incivility may spill back to the organization. Therefore, organizations should take coworker incivility seriously, explain unacceptable behavior, and actively discourage it. They also could provide employee assistance programs for employees who are suffering stress from coworker incivility so that spillover and negative outcomes are reduced.


Ferguson, M. (2012). You cannot leave it at the office: Spillover and crossover of coworker incivility. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33, 571-588.