Modeling character: Servant Leaders, Incivility and Patient Outcomes
Persistent and pervasive rudeness and lack of respect are unfortunately common in workplaces today. The deleterious effects of this incivility at work may be even worse than previously demonstrated, impacting not only employee victims but also trickling down to those who employees contact. However, we propose that leaders who prioritize their followers’ needs above their own, also known as servant leaders, may be a critical preventative mechanism to reduce group-level incivility through promoting a virtuous climate. Applying social learning theory and social information processing theory, we argue that servant leaders role model virtuous character that contributes to a virtuous climate that influences group members to reduce incivility and, in turn, treat others well. We utilize the healthcare setting (1,485 nurses in 71 hospital units) to support this hypothesized process across multi-source measures of incivility from coworkers and team supervisors and three indicators of quality of patient care. Specific findings and implications for managers in healthcare settings and beyond are discussed.