Happy But Uncivil? Examining When and Why Positive Affect Leads to Incivility

  • Remus Ilies
  • Cathy Yang GuoEmail author
  • Sandy Lim
  • Kai Chi Yam
  • Xinxin Li
Original Paper


In this paper, we examine the interactive effects of positive affect and perspective-taking on workplace incivility and family incivility, through moral disengagement. We draw from broaden-and-build and moral disengagement theories to suggest a potential negative consequence of positive affect. Specifically, we argue that positive affect increases incivility toward coworkers and spouses through moral disengagement among employees with low, but not high perspective-taking. Data from two time-lagged field studies and one online experiment provide support for our hypotheses. These findings suggest that the beneficial effects of positive feelings are not universal, and the fostering of positive feelings at work might have unintended negative consequences, namely moral disengagement, and increased incivility at work and at home. Implications for theory and research are discussed.


Positive affect Moral disengagement Workplace incivility Family incivility Perspective-taking 



This research did not receive any specific Grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Remus Ilies
    • 1
  • Cathy Yang Guo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sandy Lim
    • 1
  • Kai Chi Yam
    • 1
  • Xinxin Li
    • 2
  1. 1.NUS Business SchoolNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Antai College of Economics and ManagementShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina

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