Research Explores How Compassion Can Reduce Workplace Incivility and Encourage Innovation - Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

Summary of:

Ko, S-H., Kim, J., & Choi, Y. (2021). Compassion and workplace incivility: Implications for open innovation. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity, 7(1):95, 1-12.

Background & Theory

This article explores how compassion might impact workplace incivility; in other words, how does treating each other kindly and respectfully and caring for one another potentially reduce rude behavior? The larger theme is how this relationship might influence open innovation and collaboration.

Research Questions

Ko, Kim, and Choi, in “Compassion and workplace incivility: Implications for open innovation” (2021), seek to address the following questions:

  1. How does compassion at work affect workplace incivility and positive emotions?
  2. What are the possible effects of compassion, reduced workplace incivility, and increased positive emotions in the workplace?


The study included a total of 304 participants from 15 companies. The demographics included 42.4% men/57.6% women, ages varying from 20s-50s, roles ranging from general staff to executive roles, and work experience ranging from 1-20+ years. All participants were to respond to a survey that included measures for their workplace regarding compassion, positive emotion, positive leadership, and workplace incivility. All scales for rating included questions about the participants’ personal experiences and feelings. Harmon single factor test was used to determine common method bias, and the data was collected and analyzed using AMOS 24.0.


The results showed that where compassion is found in the workplace, there is less likely to be workplace incivility. Additionally, compassion tends to lead to positive emotion, and this is correlated with positive leadership. Positive leadership is also likely to exist in a workplace without much workplace incivility. The results point to positive emotion and positive leadership being mediators for the compassion-workplace incivility relationship.

What This Means

  • Workplace incivility hinders open innovation and the collaboration and teamwork of a workplace. Thus, understanding how to reduce workplace incivility is quite important if we desire to have a workplace where people feel appreciated and can foster innovative ideas.
  • Positive leadership also has a lot of positive impacts in a workplace; not only does it reduce/prevent workplace incivility, it also encourages an atmosphere for innovation.
  • Where there is a positive working environment, compassion and care amongst colleagues for one another, and positive leadership, there tends to be less workplace incivility, more innovation, and overall better performance and functionality.

Final Takeaway

For consultants: When mediating a workplace issue or coaching organizational leadership, finding ways to incorporate compassion and positive leadership methods can greatly help reduce future conflict and possibly help resolve the issues at hand.

For everyone: Compassion should never be underestimated; it really can improve not only your own day-to-day life, but significantly impact others, as well.

Natalie Davis

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