Argumentative Essay on the Experience of Workplace Incivility Among Women

Argumentative Essay on the Experience of Workplace Incivility Among Women


In the course of their professional journeys, numerous employees inevitably encounter instances of workplace incivility, ranging from subtle snarky comments and rude interruptions to disrespect conveyed through brusque emails. Despite being perceived as a minor form of workplace mistreatment in comparison to more severe issues like sexual harassment, the cumulative impact of incivility should not be underestimated. This essay asserts that workplace incivility disproportionately affects women, challenging common expectations by revealing that it often originates from their female colleagues. As a result, the pervasive nature of incivility significantly diminishes job satisfaction and, in extreme cases, may compel individuals to contemplate leaving their employment.

The Arguments Highlighting Increased Incivility Experienced by Women from Their Female Colleagues at Work

A recurrent observation in numerous studies is that women frequently report a higher incidence of workplace incivility compared to their male counterparts. Despite this recognition, identifying the perpetrators of mistreatment towards women at work has remained ambiguous. Some have postulated that men, as the dominant social class, might be responsible, perceiving the power to mistreat women. With overt forms of mistreatment like sexual harassment becoming legally prohibited, subtle forms of discrimination, such as incivility, may have surged within the workplace. Conversely, others propose that women may mistreat each other due to perceived competition for advancement opportunities within companies (Gabriel et al., 2018).

The question that emerges is why women would be more susceptible to mistreatment from other women. Our research indicates that when women demonstrate assertive behavior at work—such as expressing opinions in meetings, assigning tasks, and taking charge—they are more likely to report experiencing uncivil treatment from their female counterparts. This suggests that assertive actions by women may contradict societal norms, where women are expected to be warm and nurturing rather than emphatic and dominant. Women who assert themselves in the workplace may face interpersonal mistreatment as a backlash (Gabriel et al., 2018).

It is also plausible that these assertive behaviors are interpreted as ruthless by other women. Since women tend to compare themselves to one another, assertive behaviors may signal competition, provoking incivility as a response. Interestingly, men do not seem to encounter the same challenges when deviating from gender norms—at least concerning how their male peers respond to such exceptions. In our research, men who exhibited warm, nurturing behavior reported lower instances of incivility from other men compared to those displaying lower levels of this behavior at work. Thus, while women may be penalized by their female counterparts for deviating from gender norms, men receive a social credit of sorts from their male peers (Gabriel et al., 2018). Society appears to grant men greater flexibility to deviate from societal expectations, a luxury not extended to women.

The Consequences of Workplace Incivility

A comprehensive study revealed staggering figures regarding the repercussions of incivility in the workplace. In response to such experiences, 48% of employees deliberately reduced their work effort, 47% curtailed their time spent at work, and 38% intentionally diminished the quality of their work. Equally alarming, 80% of employees confessed to losing work hours due to dwelling on experienced incivility, with 66% reporting a decline in performance and 78% expressing a reduced commitment to their organization. The study’s authors estimated that considering cognitive distractions and time delays, the financial cost of incivility could soar to $14,000 per employee (Madsen, 2022). Thus, the impact of workplace incivility is not only financial but also extends to the well-being of individuals. Notably, the effects of being a target of incivility were particularly pronounced in women’s well-being. In one study, we asked participants to report their job satisfaction over the last month, while in another, we assessed job satisfaction, along with feelings of vitality, and intentions to leave the current job. Women, when subjected to mistreatment by their female counterparts, reported diminished job satisfaction, reduced vitality, and increased intentions to quit their jobs. Interestingly, incivility from men did not yield the same outcomes for women or men in our studies. Therefore, addressing incivility among women appears to be a serious problem that organizations should proactively tackle.

The Solution

The task of companies is to actively nurture an atmosphere of positivity and fair treatment among their workforce, integrating training and educational initiatives. Thus, effective interventions include encouraging conversations about the importance of workplace civility, a strategy proven to decrease cases of mistreatment. Moreover, the creation of employee-led resource groups or empathy groups for females, ideally headed by senior female leaders, can contribute to a supportive environment. Additionally, it is recommended to initiate mentoring programs that pair ambitious women with female leaders to promote a more positive workplace space (Madsen, 2022).

Other researchers stress the importance of employees reflecting on their own experiences reflection on their behaviors in the workplace. It is essential to learn to understand that everyone may have displayed impoliteness at work, whether because of a busy day, personal circumstances, or other factors. Additionally, although the issue of negative interactions among female colleagues may be uncomfortable, it is crucial to recognize and address it (Madsen, 2022).


To sum up, workplace incivility is a problem that should be acknowledged, studied, and managed. This essay exposes that female workers experience workplace incivility more frequently than their male colleagues, with a surprising prevalence of such behavior coming from other women at work. Working in an environment of incivility leads to reduced levels of job satisfaction and general well-being, and, in some cases, even intentions to resign from the job. The findings explain the issue of workplace incivility from women: often, women who tend to be ambitious at work may experience uncivil treatment from their female colleagues. To solve the problem, it is recommended to initiate a collective approach and foster the appreciation of civility, fair treatment, and empathy.


Gabriel, A. S., Butts, M. M., & Sliter, M. T. (2018). Women experience more incivility at work — especially from other women. Harvard Business Review.

Madsen, S. (2022). Understanding women’s negative interactions with each other in the workplace. Forbes.
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