Nursing Incivility in the Workplace: A Gender Disparity Assessment

Nursing Incivility in the Workplace:  A Gender Disparity Assessment

Neil L McNinch, MS, RN1, Kari Wahl MS, RN, FNP-BC2, and Aris Eliades, PhD, RN, CNS1

1Rebecca D Considine Research Institute, Akron Children’s Hospital

2Department of Radiology, Akron Children’s Hospital


Incivility perpetrated on and by nurses in the workplace can have far reaching, negative implications for all concerned.  A common and often unaddressed issue, especially in a hospital setting, the incidence of incivility and subsequent responses may negatively impact patient care efforts and the health of the nurse, as well as employee satisfaction, performance and retention.  Assessing the occurrence and perceived frequency is therefore paramount to maintaining or improving working conditions for nurses.  

Workplace incivility is known as “a low-intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target” (Andersson and Pearson, p.475).  We conducted a study that measured workplace incivility by the Nursing Incivility Scale (NIS) (Guidroz, Burnfield-Geimer, Clark, Schwetschenau, and Jex; Wahl, 2015).   Nurses can experience incivility from multiple sources in the workplace, such as other nurses, physicians, supervisors and patients/ visitors.  Incivility is not necessarily an isolated or unidirectional experience; it can in fact be multidirectional. Examples of directional incivility include lateral (nurse to nurse) or hierarchical (physician to nurse, supervisor to nurse, nurse to student or faculty member to student). 

We examined the potential differences by gender in a secondary, retrospective study exploring the source and perceived incidence of workplace incivility. The NIS results were examined with a focus on potential differences reported by gender on two sub-scores:  Nursing Incivility and General Incivility along with eight major factors or domains:  Hostile Climate, Inappropriate Jokes, Inconsiderate Behavior, Gossip/Rumors, Free Riding, Abusive Supervision, Lack of Respect and Displaced Frustration. 

There was a significant difference for Nursing Incivility Sub-Score and the Nursing Gossip/Rumor factor (p-value < 0.01 for both) between the genders.  Males exhibited higher nursing incivility sub-score as well as a higher gossip/rumor factor indicating they more strongly agreed with statements such as:  “Other nurses on my unit:  ‘Gossip about one another’, ‘Gossip about their supervisor at work’, and ‘Spread bad rumors around here’.” In our sample, men did not report experiencing a different amount of incivility in the workplace compared to their female counterparts; however they did report witnessing more incivility among other nurses. 

We now ask you to take a step back and look at your work place/environment and ask yourself these simple questions. Do you know what incivility is? Do you know what it looks like? Could you be contributing to it within your work environment?


Andersson,  L. M., & Pearson, C. M. (1999). Tit for Tat? The Spiraling Effect of Incivility in the Workplace. Academy Of Management Review, 24(3), 452-471. doi:10.5465/AMR.1999.2202131

Guidroz, A.M., Burnfield-Geimer, J.L., Clark, O., Schwetschenau, H.M. and Jex, S.M. The Nursing Incivility Scale: Development and Validation of an Occupation-Specific Measure. Journal of Nursing Measurement. 2010; 18(3):176-200.

Wahl, K. (2015). The Incidence and Sources of Incivility Identified by Nurses in a Pediatric Healthcare System. Unpublished manuscript.

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