Negative Mind Wandering as a Symptom of Incivility: What it Means for Important Workplace Outcomes
The effects of experienced incivility have been explained by a variety of cognitive and emotional mechanisms, but mind wandering may also be responsible for many processes and behaviors associated with incivility due to its ability to make room for resources (ego depletion theory) and remedy attentional conflicts generated by incivility (attentional-conflict theory). This study proposed that three negative dimensions of mind wandering (distressed, ruminating and irrelevant) would mediate the relationship between experienced incivility and various workplace outcomes, including instigated incivility, task performance, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), and creative problem solving. As part of the study, we also developed and validated the Workplace Mind Wandering Scale, the first multidimensional scale to examine mind wandering in the workplace. One hundred and sixty-four participants from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk completed a cross sectional, self-report survey. Results demonstrated that experienced incivility positively predicted instigated incivility, and negatively predicted task performance. Further, distressing mind wandering and irrelevant mind wandering (but not ruminating mind wandering) both mediated the incivility-performance relationship. Similarly, distressing mind wandering and irrelevant mind wandering (but not ruminating mind wandering) mediated the relationship between experienced incivility and instigated incivility. Lastly, problem focused coping moderated the relationship between incivility and distressing mind wandering such that the positive relationship was stronger for individuals with low problem focused coping. These results suggest that negative mind wandering may be a mechanism through which incivility impacts task performance and instigated incivility. Theoretically, this study provides researchers additional mechanisms towards how incivility can impact targets. Practically, this may provide organizations information for how to select or train employees to mitigate the consequences of both incivility and mind wandering. Lastly, limitations and future directions are discussed.