New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Suzy Fox and Terri R. Lituchy
Chapter 7: Selective Incivility: Gender, Race, and the Discriminatory Workplace
Dana Kabat-Farr and Lilia M. Cortina Recent decades have seen extensive social research on “modern” or “contemporary” forms of sexism and racism (e.g., Dovidio and Gaertner, 1998; Sears, 1998; Tougas et al., 1999; Swim et al., 2004). This encompasses covert biases, held even by people who value egalitarianism and avoid discriminating (intentionally) on the basis of gender or race. In a similar vein, organizational psychologists have shown increasing interest in “general incivility,” or subtly rude behavior that lacks a clear intent to harm (e.g., Andersson and Pearson, 1999; Cortina et al., 2001, 2002; Pearson et al., 2001). Bridging these literatures, Cortina (2008) proposed a theory of selective incivility, drawing attention to incivility as modern discrimination in organizations. Her central argument was that incivility is not always so “general,” sometimes constituting a veiled expression of bias that ostracizes women and people of color. While there have been efforts to eradicate discrimination from employment, selective incivility can fly under the radar and persist without challenge, representing a disguised form of dysfunction in many contexts of work. In this chapter, we begin by drawing from a range of literatures and theoretical traditions to frame Cortina’s propositions about selective incivility. Included here are theories on the social psychology of modern discrimination and the organizational psychology of workplace incivility. We then touch on the concepts of “intersectionality” and “double jeopardy” to suggest that women of color may be most at risk for uncivil treatment. Next comes empirical evidence of selective incivility in three organizations. The...
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