Rude Colleagues Can Influence Your Parenting Style
A bad attitude at work may impact not only colleagues, but also their children. According to new research presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention, women who regularly experienced incivility and disrespect in the workplace tended to be more rigid and authoritarian with their children.
An authoritarian parenting style (not to be confused with authoritative parenting) values discipline over fun. It tends to be a micromanaging parenting style, with high expectations of children’s unquestioning adherence to parents’ rules. Disobedience and mistakes are often harshly punished, unmitigated by warmth and support.
“These findings reveal some previously undocumented ways that women, in particular, suffer as a result of workplace aggression,” says researcher Angela Dionisi, PhD, Carleton University, Canada. “In uncovering how this mistreatment in the workplace interferes with positive mother-child interactions, this research also speaks to a previously unacknowledged group of indirect incivility victims, namely children.”
For the study, the researchers designated workplace incivility as any behavior that violated basic respect, ranging from aggressive to impolite. For instance, ignoring or making rude remarks about a person, taking credit for another’s work, playing the blame game, or isolating someone from teamwork, all qualify as the type of incivility that might affect parenting style.
“It’s unpleasant, it’s frustrating, but it may boil down to one seeing a coworker behaving as a jerk,” Dionisi says. “Our findings, however, suggest that this low-intensity behavior can actually erode one’s sense of parental competence, and as a result, may also be harming one’s children in a vicarious way.”
Researchers came to this conclusion after surveying 146 working mothers and their partners. Mothers were asked about their work environment, as well as how effective they felt as a parent. Partners were then asked to enumerate the mother’s negative parenting behaviors (e.g., were they authoritarian or lenient?). Researchers found a significant connection between mothers working in hostile work environments and authoritarian parenting styles.
Mothers who faced office incivilities also reported feeling ineffective as parents, which might explain their emphasis on control and order in their parenting, says study co-author Kathryne Dupre, PhD, also of Carleton University.
While the scope of the study only explored mothers’ work experiences and parenting styles — possibly because women are more likely to meet with incivility and disrespect in the workplace — there’s no reason to suppose a similarly negative work environment wouldn’t have the same effect on dads.
“Being on the receiving end of workplace incivility has been linked to lower levels of effort and performance on the job, higher levels of stress, and impaired attention, information processing and decision-making,” Dupre says.
In other words, rudeness from colleagues can undermine many of the skills one needs to be an effective worker — and parent.
“Research suggests that authoritarian parenting is more of a negative style of parenting as compared to other parenting styles. This style of parenting has been associated with a variety of negative child outcomes, including associating obedience and success with love, exhibiting aggressive behavior outside the home, being fearful or overly shy around others, having difficulty in social situations due to a lack of social competence, suffering from depression and anxiety, and struggling with self-control,” she adds.
The researchers hope the study further strengthens the need for organizations to better tackle office bullying, which in turn will lead to better health and well-being, and may expand parents’ capacity for more effective parenting techniques.
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