Understanding Graduate Research Assistants' Experiences of Workplace Incivility
The purpose of this study was to understand workplace incivility experiences and its impact on Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) (non-teaching) who were employed at a large public university in the United States of America (USA) Workplace incivility is a growing problem of our society and is rapidly rising. Incivility prevails in all types of workplaces, corporate, small businesses, government agencies, and educational institutions. While several studies on workplace incivility have been carried out in business settings, there are fewer studies that have been conducted in educational settings. Specifically, studies on workplace incivility in the higher education context have been conducted primarily in the nursing education context and/or with graduate/undergraduate students. Further, fewer studies in higher education have explored workplace incivility in relation to individuals that are of a lower position such as, Graduate Assistants (GAs). Studies that do exist on the mistreatment of GAs have revealed that universities take advantage of them, and Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) face incivility from undergraduate students. However, it appears that a study on Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) (whose responsibility should be to assist with research) experiences of workplace incivility had not been conducted. Within the naturalistic paradigm, I used the phenomenological approach. Eight diverse participants (GRAs) were interviewed twice for this study. Data was analyzed using techniques unique to phenomenology such as, horizontalization.
The findings revealed that although participants faced challenges due to incivility they transcended those experiences in order to achieve academic success. Participants experienced incivility from powerful individuals as well as those who were in lower and similar positions. Further, participants experienced incivility due to their race, gender, culture, job, and job description. Incivility impacted participants? personal, professional, and academic life. Nevertheless, participants developed coping mechanisms, and one of which was reciprocating incivility in conspicuous manners to avoid jeopardizing their role as an employee and student. Most importantly, participants build resilience and developed a new identity which helped them in becoming goal-oriented so they could obtain their degree. Based on the finding, a new conceptual framework was developed to capture the essence of GRAs experiences of workplace incivility. Implications for human resource development were drawn and specific future research directions were discussed.