Date of Completion
civility, candor, psychological safety, appraisals, work communication
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
At the core of recent workplace and public discourse debates appears to be a clear tension between two different but equally important values, the need to be civil and the need to be candid in our day-to-day workplace interactions. However, relatively little is known about how employees resolve this conflict between civility and candor at work and the consequences of this tension for employees and organizations. When employees communicate with colleagues at work, there is often a focus on the content of what is being said. However, an equally important consideration in workplace interactions is how people utilize civility and candor to express their input and how, in turn, others interpret and respond this input (e.g., Bohman & Richardson, 2009). To explore this issue, I conducted two separate studies that address the tension between civility and candor from slightly different perspectives. First, I conducted an experimental vignette study that examined whether people make quick judgments about others’ authenticity, intentions, likeability, and effectiveness based on brief information about how a person utilizes civility and candor, finding that communicators who use both high civility and high candor at work are more likely to be perceived as authentic, well-intentioned, likable, and effective than those using other combinations to get their points across. In a second study, I extended these questions to also consider the role of psychological safety in understanding how pre-existing work relationships may uniquely influence the judgments people make about the tension between civility and candor within their workgroup and to examine if there are also consequences for the emotional labor and loneliness that employees experience. Using latent profile analysis, I identified five profiles of work communication that varied in levels of psychological safety, civility, and candor, finding that employees belonging to profiles characterized by high levels of all three characteristics had the most positive work experiences. Together, the results of these studies reveal new insights into the inferences people make about the way in which their coworkers balance civility and candor in workplace interactions and the implications of these combinations for important workplace outcomes.
Nelson, Kerri C., "Are Civility and Candor Compatible? Examining the Tension Between Respectful and Honest Workplace Communication" (2019). Doctoral Dissertations. 2103.