Workplace Stress Can Spill Over into Home Life and Marriage

This study was conducted to evaluate the effects of workplace stress and rudeness from colleagues on marital relationships. Factors like marital satisfaction, partner’s satisfaction with marriage, and transfer of stress from workplace to family were studied. The results showed that uncivil behavior from coworkers could lead to workplace stress that is transmitted from the workplace to the family. The authors conclude that those who are targets of coworker rudeness do not leave the stress behind and carry it on to the family domain, which affects relationships adversely.

Studies are being conducted to examine the effects of uncivil behavior among colleagues at work, and its effect on a person’s well-being as well as job satisfaction. Coworker rudeness is defined as “rude and discourteous” behavior and the display of “a lack of regard for others.” Studies have revealed that uncivil behavior from colleagues often results in tarnished morale, diminished productivity, and increased absenteeism from work, in addition to increased attrition and lethargy. This study attempted to analyze the effects of uncivil behavior on an individual’s relationships, especially marital. It also tried to assess the effects of stress experienced by people at their workplace due to coworker rudeness, and its effect on their partner’s or spouse’s well-being.

* For this study, 190 persons who were employed fulltime were included, along with their partners or spouses.
* Of the sample of employees, 57 percent were males, and of the sample of partners or spouses, 43 percent were males. The average age of the employees and partners in the samples was 36 and 35 years, respectively. Of the tested sample, 75 percent were living with their children.
* For the study, the employees with their partners first completed an online survey. In the second phase, both the employee and his/ her partner completed a different survey separately.

Key findings
* The results showed that partners or spouses at home felt the transfer of stress resulting from coworker rudeness, by employees from the workplace to their family domain.
* It was seen that participants who faced uncivil behavior from their coworkers experienced marital dissatisfaction.
* It was noted that the partners of the tested employees also experienced marital dissatisfaction if their spouse faced uncivil behavior at work.
* Finally, it was also seen that the partners of the employees facing uncivil behavior at work experienced conflicts in their own family and work domains. Therefore, the partner’s stress was linked to his/her partner’s work-related problems.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The authors agree that their sample was limited, and the parameters tested with regard to relationships were few. They suggest further studies with larger samples. They also recommend an exploration of the effects of workplace conflicts on the relationship between an employee and his/her children. They add that the study fails to look at other factors such as the employee’s role as a parent.

This study showed that individuals who experience rude and disrespectful behavior from their coworkers tend to be stressed out and are more likely to bring this stress home, which affects their marital relationship. The results show that when individuals experience such behavior at work, they tend to be dissatisfied with their jobs and marriages. In addition, the individual’s partner also feels the stress that is transferred to the family, and thus experiences dissatisfaction with the marriage as well, apart from facing difficulties in his own family and workplace domains. The authors conclude that it is important to stop uncivil behavior so that “the ripple effect of incivility does not impact the target’s family and then potentially crosses back over to inflict further damage for the target at work.”

For More Information:
You Cannot Leave it at the Office: Spillover and Crossover of Coworker Incivility
Publication Journal: Journal of Organizational Behavior, 2011
By Merideth Ferguson; Baylor University, Waco, Texas

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