Chapter 3: Research Method
The problem addressed in this study was the dearth of research associated with the root cause of workplace incivility (Miner et al., 2108; Schilpzand et al., 2016; Topp & Chipukuma, 2016). Although recent research had ranged from investigating the antecedents and aftermaths, to proposing potential interventions, the most prominent gap remaining related to the underlying origin of workplace incivility. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to logically explore the research problem related to the genesis of workplace incivility while directly reflecting and encompassing the research questions associated with the underlying causes, organizational cultural contributions, and the human interactions related to workplace incivility. This study leveraged a case study design assessing the experience of organizational culture facilitators confronting incivility in organizations. This chapter details the research methodology and design. Additionally, the study population and sample size are presented and justified as appropriate to address the research problem, purpose, and answer the research questions. The assessment materials are described along with the associated credibility and dependability of the study. The study procedures are illustrated to include data collection and analytic methods. The assumptions, limitations, and delimitations related to this study are communicated to convey anticipated biases, weaknesses, and scope constraints. Finally, the ethical assurances applied to the study are described.
Research Methodology and Design
The type of qualitative research design incorporated in this study involved a case study. This qualitative case study was appropriate for the stated problem identified as the lack of research associated with the root cause of workplace incivility because the case study provided the ability to comprehend context and explore social phenomena from numerous perspectives (Kegler, Raskind, Comeau, Griffith, & Shelton, 2019). Qualitative research was suitable for advancing a profound understanding of an activity or social setting as perceived by the research participants (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016). A qualitative methodology was selected over a quantitative approach for this study. As opposed to quantitative methods that quantify or manipulate described variables or introduce treatments, qualitative approaches aim to present in-depth comprehension and insights of actual events or problems (Moser & Korstjens, 2017). Whereas quantitative research deduces new knowledge relying chiefly on rational reasoning grounded in previous perceptions and develops comprehension along adjacent or existing paths, qualitative methods reveal new insights and often introduce theory in entirely new directions (Bansal, Smith, & Vaara, 2018). This study explored the origins of workplace incivility to address a gap in the existing literature (Miner et al., 2108; Schilpzand et al., 2016; Topp & Chipukuma, 2016) through qualitative research as opposed to quantifying its existence as has been implemented among a plethora of quantitative studies (Hershcovis et al., 2018; Koon & Pun, 2017; Laschinger et al., 2014). A qualitative methodology can leverage any one of a multitude of designs and several were assessed to determine the most appropriate approach to this study related to the origins of workplace incivility. Phenomenology, ethnography, and grounded theory are deemed as the ‘big three’ qualitative designs, stemming from distinct theoretical disciplines and are employed in different realms concentrating on various areas of inquiry (Korstjens & Moser, 2017). Phenomenology focuses on the lived experiences and sense-making by individuals in their subjective encounters, while ethnography explores behaviors and meanings from a holistic viewpoint of a culture (Jamali, 2018). Though a phenomenological design may have been appropriate for the lived experiences of targets of uncivil behavior in the workplace, the researcher of this study deemed it inappropriate as the organizational culture facilitator insights, not their lived experiences, drove the method. The researcher did not select an ethnographic approach as the methodology for the proposed study as the intent was not to concentrate on a societal culture with data collected primarily through observation (Korstjens & Moser, 2017). Grounded theory methodology aims at building new theory focusing on the structure of social settings (Charmaz, 2014) and the aim of this workplace incivility research was not to build theory, but to explore the phenomenon through the lens of an existing theory. Another accepted method incorporates participatory action research, a collaborative approach between participants and researchers, built on the assertion that the creation of knowledge may be political and utilized to apply influence (Korstjens & Moser, 2017). Participatory action research was not aligned to the goal of this study which planned to explore the understandings of organizational facilitators, rather than to inject the researcher’s participation into such encounters. Lastly, another means considered included narrative research that illuminates the story of the focus of the inquiry (Bowler et al., 2015). A narrative researcher is immersed into the intricacy of the various layers of stories lived daily by human beings (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016) and this approach was more aligned to relaying the experiences of the instigators or targets of workplace incivility as opposed to the external viewpoints of the facilitators participating in this study. After much consideration, the case study design was selected to address the research problem and answer the research questions. Case studies are appropriate for illuminating the complexities surrounding causation (Houghton et al., 2013). Case study designs encapsulate a rigorous description and analytic effort exploring a social phenomenon bounded by time or activity (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016). A case study is a pragmatic inquiry that examines a current phenomenon within its authentic context utilizing various sources of substantiation (Pearson, Albon, & Hubball, 2015). The data used in a case study is characteristically qualitative in its description and concentrates on creating a comprehensive rather than a generalizable understanding, and the design can be employed to describe, explore, or explain phenomena through a meticulous analysis within its natural environment (Yin, 2014). However, Rule and John (2015) cautioned that the case study is not intended to provide a pathway to generalizability across different groups or organizations, but to permit some applicability of the findings to the specific population studied. With the intent of the planned research associated with workplace incivility to explore the “how” of the developing uncivil behavior and the “why” it perpetuates, through the lens of facilitators aiding organizations confronting such challenges, the case study was the optimal choice for the study’s design. The qualitative case study logically explored the genesis of workplace incivility as described in the stated problem and research purpose, while answering the three research questions associated with the underlying causes, organizational cultural contributions, and the human interactions related to workplace incivility. Though the qualitative approach was deemed appropriate for this study, there were limitations to selecting the methodology with the primary challenges related to validity and reliability (generalizability) which do not convey the same implications as in quantitative studies (Hadi & Jose Closs, 2016). Instead, qualitative researchers should strive to demonstrate credibility (accurate representation of the participant’s perspectives), dependability (the ability to track the procedures and processes incorporated in the study), transferability (usefulness of lessons learned in other settings), along with the study’s believability and plausibility related to its trustworthiness (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016). To overcome the traditional validity and reliability limitations recognized in qualitative research, this study concentrated on correctly expressing participant perceptions (credibility) and clearly articulating the processes and procedures incorporated in the research (dependability). Further, transferability was supported by describing the selection of a representative sample and presenting rich descriptions of the data collected (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016) to possibly enhance the ability to apply the observations to other settings. Finally, trustworthiness was addressed by conveying transparency related to potential bias, study limitations, delimitations, and revelations not expected, but learned along the way (Hadi & Jose Closs, 2016). This study employed triangulation of the generated themes from the facilitator interviews, along with the agency’s written reports, to add to the credibility of the study (Carter, BryantLukosius, DiCenso, Blythe, & Neville, 2014). By using multiple sources, such as facilitators and document reviews, this study demonstrated the functionality of triangulation to corroborate the data obtained, adding depth and rigor to understanding workplace incivility. Finally, to provide an additional indicator of credibility, member checking, whereby the researcher verified the interpretation of the interview transcription with each interviewee, and the participant feedback on the interview summary was incorporated to ensure the interview results were accurately represented (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016).
Population and Sample
The target population included approximately 1,233 trained organizational culture facilitators charged with assisting workforces dealing with cultural issues such as workplace incivility in the Washington, D.C. metro area (Mid-Atlantic Facilitator Network.org, 2019, January 21). This specific population was selected as it was representative of the socio-political angst prevalent in the Washington area. The culture facilitators in DC were at the epicenter of incivility experienced between politicians with different values and goals (e.g., President and Congress), with government agencies and defense industry companies in the midst of the incivility exchanges. A sample was selected from a specific organizational culture consulting agency (hereinafter known as OCCA) with approximately 175 affiliated facilitators aiding organizations dealing with issues such as workplace incivility. This agency was located in the Washington, D.C. metro area and served governmental and private sector agencies to resolve organizational culture issues. This agency trained and employed facilitators to resolve organizational issues, discover root causes and root solutions, as well as implement effective solutions to long-term organizational problems such as those issues related to workplace incivility. With this type of experience, facilitators employed by this agency were positioned to best respond to the research problem and purpose, and possess the information to answer the research questions. This population was appropriate to respond to the research problem identified as the gap in literature related to the root causes of workplace incivility as these culture facilitators endeavored to understand the origins rather than the symptoms associated with uncivil behavior in the workplace. Moreover, this population was appropriate to address the purpose of exploring the root causes of workplace incivility through leveraging the facilitator insights into what they had learned by working with organizations struggling with such issues between 2016-2018. Lastly, this population was representative of those individuals inclined to assist organizations confronting incivility and was appropriate to answer the research questions associated with the origins of incivility in the workplace, organizational contributions, and the human interactions involved in the behavior based on their expertise. However, because a qualitative case study was used, the results may only apply to this regionally-located population. A sample included 12 trained facilitators who were associated with the OCCA focused on resolving organizational culture issues. These facilitators were familiar with the challenges related to workplace incivility, and provided the initial data. In this qualitative research, identifying the research sample was not random as it is in some quantitative studies, but purposeful to gain a richer understanding and insight of the phenomenon (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016). Purposive sampling refers to an approach for selecting study participants based on their knowledge or expertise of the topic of interest (Mobily & Morris, 2018). Such purposive sampling was employed in this study, and it was criterion-based whereby all participants had to meet the pre-determined criteria of affiliation with OCCA and at least one year serving as a facilitator working with organizations dealing with workplace incivility. Sample size inadequacy threatens the transferability and credibility of research results, and in qualitative research, choosing an appropriate sample size is a topic burdened by practical ambiguity and conceptual dispute with the best justification linked to the principle of saturation (Morse, Lowery, & Steury, 2014; Vasileiou, Barnett, Thorpe, & Young, 2018). Data saturation is realized when there is sufficient information to reproduce the study, when the capability to acquire new meaning has been accomplished, and when no further coding is feasible (Fusch & Ness, 2015). Identifying the correct number of interviews to achieve saturation remains controversial, but a recent assessment of 54 studies claimed 11-14 interviews might demonstrate a 95% confidence level that no new themes will emerge (Galvin, 2015). However, Galvin cautioned that determining the appropriate number of interviews rests in the research strategy and analytic methodology. In another study, Hagaman and Wutich (2017) observed that 16 or fewer interviews were adequate to detect shared themes amongst a relatively homogenous group as represented in an organization. Research by de Cassia Nunes Nascimento et al. (2018) achieved theoretical saturation of the themes associated with their research after the eleventh interview, but chose to conduct four additional interviews to validate that finding. Regardless of the recommended number of interviews to reach saturation, one of the primary threats to achieving saturation is the innate researcher preconceptions in identifying themes, and furthermore, the pervasiveness of a theme does not automatically equate to the theoretical significance (Fugard & Potts, 2015). In other words, thick data is a substantial amount of data, while rich data is intricate, multi-layered, nuanced, and detailed where a researcher can have much thick data that is less than rich; and similarly, one can possess rich data but not enough of it (Lu, Chen, Peng, & Liu, 2018). A common aspect for the quality assessment of qualitative research necessitates gauging the data set saturation, demonstrating that the data comprise all the necessary information to resolve the research questions (Lowe, Norris, Farris, & Babbage, 2018; Nelson, 2017). In another study, the results, in general, demonstrated prompting and probing throughout an interview appears to matter related to saturation more than the quantity of interviews (Weller et al., 2018). Another consideration points to a direct connection between data saturation and data triangulation (use of multiple data sources); with triangulation leading to data saturation (Fusch & Ness, 2015). Consequently, this study applied data triangulation by comparing facilitator developed themes with agency documentation as a method to achieve data saturation. Based on the research related to qualitative sampling size and the intent to triangulate data to ensure saturation, the 12 interviews were deemed appropriate to address the research problem, purpose, and questions. The sample itself was considered appropriate for multiple reasons. This study included a sample consisting of culture facilitators from OCCA as they were not only trained to aid in identifying the root causes of workplace incivility, but they also had the experience working with a multitude of organizations to deal with the uncivil behavior at work. This selected sample was intended to expand the understanding of the research problem related to the limited research on workplace incivility origins based on their experience. Furthermore, this sample served to address the research purpose of logically exploring the root causes of workplace incivility centered on the OCCA facilitators’ experience in aiding organizations facing heightened incivility during the period of 2016-2018. Lastly, this sample included individuals inclined to assist organizations struggling with uncivil behavior and was appropriate to answer the research questions associated with the origins of incivility in the workplace, organizational contributions, and the human interactions involved in the behavior due to their vast familiarity with the phenomenon. Though the sample size of 12 participants was regarded as appropriate, if saturation was not reached, up to 16 additional participants, for a total of 28, would have been interviewed in an attempt to reach saturation. Aside from the proposed interviews in this study, agency data was also considered in thematic development. Especially in case studies, triangulation is key to developing in-depth comprehension of the phenomenon studied, as well as enhancing the rigor applied to the study (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016). Archived data is a means by which to accomplish triangulations through the use of multiple sources (Carter et al., 2014). Several organizational assessments conducted by the OCCA were reviewed and assessed for developed themes. This information was utilized to advance triangulation of the data collected through the interviews. Recruitment of the proposed sample participating in the study was conducted through email. For the interviews, the researcher sent emails to solicit voluntary participation, originating from the researcher’s University email address. An email, using the blind copy line, was sent to the agency facilitators to their business email address, provided by the OCCA administration. The email concisely explained the purpose of the study, invited the potential participants to partake in the study, and clearly stated that volunteers were being sought for research. Further, the email provided the eligibility criteria along with the participant activities and time commitments. The researcher’s contact information was provided for individuals to follow-up and express their interest in participating. No compensation was offered to study participants. The recruitment email can be found in Appendix D. The approval for garnering the email list from OCCA was included in the site permission request. This site permission request also included the approval to access OCCA organizational assessment documents for review.
The primary method of data collection leveraged semi-structured, in-depth interviews, with open-ended questions to elicit distinct and rich perspectives (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016). The researcher created pre-determined interview questions inferred from five separate studies to develop the interview protocol for applicability to the intent of this study and to answer the research questions. The generated questions resulted from the review of questions used in studies of Abdollahzadeh et al. (2017), Ahn and Choi (2019), Hyun, De Gagne, Park, and Kang (2018), Mosoumpoor, Borhani, Abbaszadeh, and Rassouli (2017), and Rad, Ildarabadi, Moharreri, and Moonaghi (2016). Permission was granted for the use by the owner (Hyun et al., 2018) of the interview construct and is located in Appendix C. Semi-structured interviews were employed to enable a more focused investigation of the workplace incivility (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016). Creating the appropriate interview questions to support a semi-structured protocol required the ability to address the research questions, with the interview success dependent upon the rapport between the interviewee and the interviewer as well as the interviewer’s skill in asking good questions (Jacob & Furgeson, 2012). For this study, the interview questions emerged after careful assessment of the best way to answer the three research questions related to the underlying causes, organizational cultural contributions, and the human interactions related to workplace incivility. Furthermore, the assigned Dissertation Chair and Subject Matter Expert reviewed the quality and content of the proposed interview questions. The interview protocol included the introductory and closing scripts to initially establish rapport and ultimately bring the interview to closure. Included in the protocol were descriptive questions garnering information related to facilitator experience and certification levels. The interview included a preparatory question to determine how the participant characterized workplace incivility, followed by 10 questions intended to answer the research questions. Two probing questions were employed to prompt clarity or expansion of the answers provided. A concluding question provided the participant with an opportunity to offer final thoughts. The interview protocol comprised of the scripts and questions is included in Appendix A. Before employing the developed interview protocol, it underwent multiple tests. In accordance with the University Institutional Review Board (IRB) requirements for achieving a 9th-grade reading level or below, the Flesch-Kincaid readability scale was applied and resulted in a reading level of 8.7. Once the criterion associated with the appropriate reading level was achieved, a structure analysis was performed during the formation of the interview questions through the use of a validation rubric developed by Simon and White (2016, February 4). This rubric for assessing the credibility of the interview questions can be found in Appendix B. The next test of the protocol involved a field test by two qualitative research subject matter experts to obtain feedback and recommended revisions for the developed interview questions. Field testing is a technique applied by a researcher to engage one or more people who have an expertise in the qualitative research process and based on the population and topic, offers feedback on the appropriateness on the interview questions to answer the research questions (Katz, 2015). Katz (2015) conveyed that, after feedback from the expert, subsequent revisions to the proposed interview questions should reduce bias and ambiguity, and adjust word choice to improve authenticity. One of subject matter experts selected to review the interview questions for this study was an accomplished author of qualitative research methodology and case study design and the other expert was the Director of a research center. Lastly, after the field test, the interview questions were re-assessed using the rubric in Appendix B.
After securing the site permission and the University IRB approval for the research, the data collection commenced, beginning with the recruitment of participants from the proposed sample of facilitators in the organizational culture field. For those individuals volunteering to participate, a 60-minute interview was scheduled, with interview questions relating to the research questions noted earlier in Chapter 1. The interview sessions were conducted at the convenience of the participants, onsite at one of three library branches in Arlington, VA, in a private room. The qualitative interview data was audio-taped using a Sony ICDPX370 Mono Digital Voice Recorder with a built-in USB drive. Moreover, agency documentation was accessed to support triangulation of the developed themes. The OCCA had conducted organizational culture assessments specifically identifying root causes associated with organizational culture issues such as workplace incivility at several agencies. The site permission request asked for permission to access these reports for review. Upon IRB approval, these assessments were obtained from the OCCA Communications Director and reviewed on-site at the OCCA. Each assessment was evaluated for contribution to the thematic coding used in the data analysis phase.
Data Collection and Analysis
The researcher used a two-pronged approach to attaining the eventual themes from the study, deductive and inductive, as proposed by Constantinou, Georgiou, and Perdikogianni (2017). The deductive part modified pre-determined interview questions from one study (Hyun et al., 2018) with review of four other studies to develop the interview protocol for this study (Abdollahzadeh et al., 2017; Ahn & Choi, 2019; Mosoumpoor et al., 2017; Rad et al., 2016). The inductive approach was applied to each interview in developing codes from the raw data followed by drawing parallels between codes and, consequently, forming the themes. The audio-recorded interview responses were transcribed manually to enhance researcher familiarity with the data. After transcribing the results from the interviews, the researcher employed member checking to validate the transcriptions with the participants to ensure their contributions were captured accurately. As a result of member checking, the researcher of this study documented participant feedback on the researcher’s interpretation of the data collected during the interviews (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016). These member checks were accomplished by sending an individualized transcript with researcher notes to each participant asking for their review and comment as to its accuracy. Additionally, the data collected through the facilitator interviews, along with the agency document review, was triangulated to gain an in-depth comprehension of the workplace incivility phenomenon. Triangulation provided corroborative evidence, adding depth, breadth, and rigor to the study, as well as substantiating data saturation (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016). The researcher assessed the data collected to ensure that it could be used to answer the research questions and ultimately address the identified problem. Appendix A includes the interview protocol with interview questions 1, 2, and 3 answering Research Question (RQ) 1 related to the underlying causes; questions 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 addressing RQ2 associated with organizational contributions; and questions 9 and 10 answering RQ3 to characterize the human interactions related to workplace incivility. The data collected through the document review and interviews was analyzed manually first to convert the raw data into codes and then into themes. Once this effort was completed, the data was subjected to a computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) to compare results to the themes developed through the manual approach. Of all the options from which to select, this researcher opted to purchase NVivo as the CAQDAS to analyze the data from this study using the researcher-identified coding because of its ease of use and affordability. The rationale to conduct both manual and computer-aided data analysis related to the additional rigor applied helped validate the themes generated. Further, to minimize researcher bias related to the developed themes, subject matter experts in workplace incivility were asked to review and validate the themes detected. Once the data were analyzed, the themes identified were summarized in a series of tables found Appendix G. Throughout the data collection and analysis phase of the research, much attention focused on the methodology used. However, the role of the researcher in qualitative research was a critical part of a study. Especially with student researchers, such novices are challenged in addressing data saturation as they primarily rely on a personal lens because they presume that they do not have a bias in their data collection, as well as their subsequent decisions pertaining to data saturation (Constantinou et al., 2017). It is essential to recall that a researcher’s, as well as the participant’s, worldview (also known as bias), exists in all social research, even if it is unintentional (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2017). Acknowledging the subjectivity brought to study by the researcher provides the reader greater understanding as to how the conclusions were drawn. The researcher in this study acknowledges potential bias associated with previous work as a marriage and family therapist focused on trust and vulnerability underlying human interactions. Further, the researcher worked for an organization similar to the type with which the affiliates of this OCCA work. However, the researcher did not work with or have any professional association with the OCCA consultants. To minimize the propensity for confirmation bias, by which the research could interpret data that supports expectations based on the researcher’s experience, this study utilized member checking for validation. To mitigate any possible subjectivity, the researcher also employed several strategies such as exploring multiple sources of data, field testing of the interview questions, and subject matter expert reviews of the coding schema. Additionally, the dissertation chair read through this research objectively to detect indications of bias that may have gone unnoticed. Beyond the potential bias challenges faced by the researcher, there were additional considerations to address. For any research proposed, fundamental assumptions, limitations, and delimitations exist (DuBois, Strait, & Walsh, 2018). These concepts are key elements of a feasible study, and without clear articulation, the study’s credibility may be questioned (Hancock, 2016). The following segments explain how each of these conceptions related to the study.
Assumptions are statements that signal what the researcher believes to be true (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016) with the intent to draw conclusions related to them at the end of the study. The assumptions are grounded in particular suppositions that may prove to be reality or may appear to be unwarranted (Wolgemuth, Hicks, & Agosto, 2017). The following assertions represent this study’s assumptions.
Assumption 1. The first assumption presumed that the sample selected based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria was appropriate, and consequently, ensured that the participants had a shared familiarity with the experiences of incivility encountered at the studied organization. This premise of the participant’s first-hand knowledge was essential to gain rich and thick descriptions to aid in answering the research questions and addressing the identified research problem.
Assumption 2. The second assumption presupposed that participants would provide honest and reflective responses to the interview questions. Because confidentiality and anonymity were protected and the study’s subjects were volunteers who are permitted to withdraw from the research at any time, this researcher assumed honesty was present. Without truthful reflection, the creditability and trustworthiness of the study could suffer.
Assumption 3. The third assumption presumed the participant interviews and document review would provide valuable insights into the root causes of workplace incivility dealt with by the facilitators. To assure that the semi-structured interview, comprised of open-ended questions, would get to the core of the research problem and enable this researcher to respond to the research questions, field testing of the interview questions was conducted. If the data collected was not positioned to aid in answering the research questions and addressing the research problem, then the study’s significance would be in question.
Assumption 4. The fourth assumption supposed that because this researcher chose to study workplace incivility through a qualitative paradigm, it was assumed that reality was discovered through multiple and subjective participant perspectives (Simon, 2011). This viewpoint was key to comprehending workplace incivility from the perceptions of the participants and not the views of the researcher.
Limitations represent the potential weaknesses associated with the research (Morgado, Meireles, Neves, Amaral, & Ferreira, 2017), are deemed as an uncontrollable threat to the credibility of a qualitative study, and inform future researchers about the transferability of the study’s results (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016). Furthermore, explicitly describing the study limitations is imperative in allowing other scholars to replicate or expand upon the study (Morgado et al.). Limitations are external circumstances that constrain or restrict the scope of the research and may shape the outcomes (Bloomberg & Volpe). The following limitations relate to the proposed study.
Limitation 1. Because the analysis of qualitative data was contingent upon the thoughts and the preferences of the researcher, the proposed study was limited by this researcher’s bias. To overcome this potential subjectivity, the researcher acknowledged personal predispositions and assumptions related to this study. Additionally, multiple data sources were investigated, interview questions were field tested, the coding schema was evaluated by subject matter experts, and interview transcripts were blindly coded to minimize potential bias.
Limitation 2. Due to the study design leveraging the case study methodology, the results will likely only apply to the agency facilitator perspectives studied, with limited transferability to other personnel working in the organizational culture field. This limitation was acknowledged with recommendations for expanding the study’s findings for future research.
Limitation 3. The initial sample size of 12-18 participants was small and could have challenged the saturation process, thereby impacting the potential credibility of the study. Ten additional participants were in the plan, if needed, to achieve saturation. To mitigate the possible weakness due to the small sample size, triangulation between the multiple sources, such as the different interviewees and the document reviews, was implemented to minimize the possibility that no new meaning elements or data had been overlooked.
Limitation 4. The case study of facilitator was bounded by location and a two-year time span between 2016-2018, and this snapshot was contingent upon the conditions faced by the facilitators during that period. Therefore, the conclusions of this study could only apply to a similar experience within these conditions, while confronting workplace incivility. However, some of the findings may inform future researchers in their exploration of the incivility phenomenon.
Delimitations define the boundaries of the research and identify what the researcher does not plan to accomplish (Hancock, 2016). The delimitations are intended to confine the study’s scope, making it more manageable, with the aspects intentionally absent identified (DuBois et al., 2018). Delimitations have a bearing on the transferability of the study’s conclusions (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016). The following delimitations apply to this study.
Delimitation 1. The features and factors of workplace incivility were limited to the study of the origin of the phenomenon as opposed to the instigator proclivities, victim vulnerabilities, or the impacts of the uncivil behavior on an organization that permeated much of the previous literature. By exploring workplace incivility from the perspective of root causes, the results were intended to fill a gap in the workplace incivility research, answer the research questions related to the organizational contributions to uncivil behavior in the workplace, and understand human interactions from a cost-benefit perspective to potentially inform the social exchange theory. The research decision associated with this delimitation related to the existing literature that suggested future research should explore the origins of workplace incivility as opposed to investigating the role of the instigator or impacts to the victim (Miner et al., 2108; Schilpzand et al., 2016; Topp & Chipukuma, 2016).
Delimitation 2. The location of the study was limited to the Washington D.C. metro area through a case study approach. A larger, cross-organizational study was excluded because of the identification of the challenges associated with increased scope and limited resources to accomplish such research, and a case study would allow for an in-depth exploration of the social phenomenon in its natural setting (Yin, 2014). With the purpose of the planned research associated with workplace incivility to explore the “how” of the developing uncivil behavior and the “why” it perpetuates, a qualitative methodology was appropriate for this study (Zackoff et al., 2018). Moreover, a case study was a pragmatic inquiry that examined a current phenomenon within its authentic context utilizing various sources of substantiation (Pearson et al., 2015). The case study was the optimal choice for the study’s design to delve into the contextual origins observed by the facilitators when dealing with workplace incivility.
Delimitation 3. The participants selected for this study were constrained to trained facilitators contending with workplace incivility as opposed to the experiences of instigators, witnesses, or victims of the social phenomenon. This deliberate inclusion, and omission, resulted from the intent to get to the root cause of workplace incivility, and these targeted participants were more inclined to support that purpose as they were actively engaged in attempting to comprehend and curb the uncivil behaviors in the organizations they assist. Focusing the research on instigators or witnesses may have increased the potential psychological harm related to “reliving” the experiences (Faulkner & Faulkner, 2019). The facilitator perspectives likely shaped the answers to the research questions, addressed the research problem, and informed the social exchange theory more so than those perpetuating or victimized by the incivility as they would have been anchored by their encounters with disrespectful behavior.
Delimitation 4. The theoretical construct guiding the conceptual framework of this study focused on the social exchange theory. There were several associated theories underlying the research associated with workplace incivility, but the social exchange theory was selected to focus on the cost-benefit exchanges of human interactions. Though much of the literature linked with several different theoretical frameworks, there was no specific theory that grounded the research on workplace incivility (Schilpzand et al., 2016), although social exchange theory was often used to describe human interactions such as those that occur in the workplace.
This study received approval from the University IRB prior to data collection to ensure compliance with the ethical assurances outlined in the 1979 Belmont Report to safeguard human subjects from harm. Recognizing the right of individuals to embrace self-determination demonstrated a respect for persons as autonomous representatives through the use of an informed consent. Further, compliance with the concept of beneficence was exhibited by doing no harm and ensuring the benefits outweighed the potential costs. Lastly, the principle of justice was met as participants were treated alike, and this concept was demonstrated during the objective, criterion-based selection of the study participants. The specific approaches used to ensure the three Belmont Report principles were met follow. Informed consent. This study leveraged the legally-effective the University informed consent to communicate three key aspects. First, the consent form revealed to potential research participants what they needed to make an informed decision. Secondly, this document facilitated the understanding of what may be disclosed. Thirdly, the informed consent upheld the voluntary nature of the subject to either participate or not in the study, and to include their ability to withdraw at any time before the conclusion of the research, without consequence. Right to privacy, confidentiality, anonymity. Confidentiality and privacy relate to the principles of respect for persons and beneficence (Belmont Report, 1979). Privacy is associated with people, and it refers to the participant’s sense of control related to the sharing of information about themselves, requiring researchers to protect this right, while confidentiality is an expansion of privacy which correlates to the data about the participant, necessitating that the researcher safeguard information and avoid unauthorized disclosures (Ellis-Barton, 2016). Anonymity signifies that no personally identifiable information can be connected to a participant’s responses (Walford, 2018), but anonymity was not possible due to the implicit nature of identifying participants in face-to-face interviews. To protect the participants’ privacy, their confidentiality of their associated data, the researcher implemented the following measures in the study. Recruitment. The right to privacy began at the point of participant selection. How volunteers were recruited was essential to protecting their identity, their participation, and ultimately their confidentiality in the study. An email explaining the purpose of the research and requesting research volunteers was sent directly to potential recipients, using the blind copy line, to protect the confidentiality of those facilitators privately expressing interest in participating in the research. After receiving responses from this initial outreach, all communication were oneon-one between the researcher and the volunteer. Any recruitment email conversation with prospective study participants was saved to PDF and retained, for historical chronicling of the process, in a password-protected folder on the researcher’s password-protected personal computer, with access by the study researcher only. After PDF conversion, any original recruiting email exchanges were permanently deleted from the inbox, sent, and the trash folders. Informed consents. Upon execution, the informed consents were placed in an envelope, separate from all other study documentation to avoid linkage to a study participant. This documentation was stored in a locked filing cabinet in the researcher’s residence with access by the study researcher only. Data collection. No personally identifiable information was gathered during the interview process, and no attribution occurred in the research manuscript. The researcher anonymized data to ensure the inability to associate the context and findings to a participant or to the OCCA. Pseudonyms and a fictitious organizational name were used, as applicable. The researcher also understood the sensitivity of the information contained in the agency documented assessments reviewed and was committed to protecting it through data aggregation in the research. Data storage. The recorded sessions were downloaded, encrypted, and placed on the researcher’s personal laptop in a password-protected folder, as well as deleted from the recording device upon completing these actions and member checking. Only the researcher had access to these files on the computer; however, the researcher’s committee and the University IRB were able to request the data. The recording device was in the researcher’s possession in a locked bag when transitioning from the interview conducted at the interview site to downloading on the researcher’s personal laptop once arriving home. Paper documents will be stored in a locked filing cabinet at the researcher’s residence. Data retention. Data associated with this research will be maintained for seven years, then destroyed in accordance with the University requirements Data maintained in encrypted, password-protected electronic files will be permanently deleted, and paper documents will be shredded after this seven-year period expires. Risk to participants. Risk in research signifies the potential harm that study participants may encounter. As such, to meet the principle of beneficence, the researcher performed a risk/benefit evaluation. The potential risks to human subjects in research were related to physical or psychological harm, social/economic detriment, or legal consequences (Faulkner & Faulkner, 2019). The most recognizable risk of this study related to the psychological harm that may ensue from the topic of incivility. To minimize the possible traumatic association to previous exposure, this study did not interview the targets or the instigators of such behavior. Instead, the facilitators, who were trained to remain neutral and listen to understand, were less likely to have an adverse reaction to the topic as they were working, with regularity, alongside impacted personnel to overcome their organization’s incivility challenges. To further minimize the risks associated with what could have been deemed as a sensitive topic related to workplace incivility, the researcher made efforts to avoid recruiting individuals subjected to disrespectful behavior that could have conjured uncomfortable feelings such as being a victim of sexual harassment by focusing recruitment on culture facilitators and not victims of the behavior. One potential interconnected risk could have resulted from discomfort in answering one or more interview questions. Participants were reminded of the voluntary nature of the study participation and that they could have skipped a question they deemed uncomfortable in answering or even withdrew from the study at any time, with no negative repercussions. Additionally, vulnerable populations were not intentionally pursued in the recruitment for this study, and the risk was addressed in the following manner. Minors. No one under the age of eighteen was employed by the OCCA, and therefore, minors did not be serve as facilitators and subsequently were not recruited for this study. Pregnant women. Though there was no intended pursuit of pregnant women to participate in this study, there was a chance that one or more of the volunteer participants may be pregnant. However, because the intent of this study was not proposed to explore topics associated with prenatal, gestation, or abortion-related topics, the risk connected to facilitators that may have been pregnant was considered minimal. Research involving workers/employees. The greatest risk associated with this group of individuals related to possible coercion to participate, or not, in a study whereby potential participants may have perceived possible resulting job loss or reduced responsibilities. If a researcher was also a supervisor of potential participants, the perceived pressure to volunteer would have had bearing on the credibility of the research outcomes. The researcher of this study was not a supervisor of any of the participants, nor was a supervisor in the agency contacted to aid in the recruiting process. The researcher, who was not employed at the OCCA, had no power or influence over the potential study participants. Additionally, potential participants were recruited through a direct, private email to place the choice for study participation in their control without feeling compelled to partake in the research. Conversely, the benefits associated with participating in the research may have involved a positive effect as the participants provided insights into how to address issues such as incivility. Military members or veterans. Though some of the facilitators may have Department of Defense affiliations, there was no intent to target military members or veterans for participation in this study. Because the OCCA employee base included retired military, prior servicemembers, or reservists, it would have been improbable to exclude them as part of the participant pool. Moreover, a veteran’s or reservist’s participation was not related to their status based on their current or prior military affiliation, but more appropriately grounded in their experience as a facilitator associated with the OCCA. Furthermore, no use of DoD resources, to include facilities, funding, equipment, personnel (investigators or other personnel performing tasks identified in the research protocol), access to or information about DoD personnel for recruitment, or identifiable data from living individuals were leveraged in this study. No recruitment occurred on a military installation; nor was it accomplished through the use of the Global Address list/military distributions lists. People with mental health or medical diagnoses, or cognitive impairments. Though these conditions were assessed as part of suitability for employment at the agency, anyone with such a condition was not the target of this study. Even if someone with a physical disability volunteered to participate in this study, there were no physical requirements associated with the interview participation other than transiting to and from the interview. The researcher screened for any physical impairments to ensure the appropriate accommodation. People living in poverty or with limited access to resources such as education. It was unlikely that this study would recruit individuals economically-challenged. The average salary range for this population was between $58,000-$84,000 annually, well above the poverty level (Indeed.com, 2019, January 12). Moreover, no compensation was offered for study participation. There was also a small chance for loss of confidentiality should the researcher had not taken the precautions to prevent such a disclosure from occurring. Only information related to each subject that was necessary was collected. Separation of interview results from informed consents and securing documentation in a locked filing cabinet with only access by the researcher were measures employed to protect confidentiality in this study. Based on this review of potential vulnerabilities, the risks for physical, psychological, social/economic, or legal harm were assessed as minimal in this study. The primary benefit of study participation linked to the participant’s contributions to gaining greater insight into the origins of workplace incivility. The ability of a participant to potentially add to the field of knowledge based on their experience was deemed as beneficial. Furthermore, by participating in the interview process, a study participant could have had new insights emerge beyond what occurred to them while dealing with the challenges faced by an organization confronting workplace incivility. Additionally, the OCCA also could have gained perspectives to further address the incivility challenges confronted. Based on the preceding assessment of the possible risks, as well as the mitigation strategies, and the potential benefits of the proposed study, it was deemed that there were minimal risks related to this research, with a likelihood that the benefits of participation would likely outweigh any possible harm. The relevant ethical issues associated with the risk related to topic sensitivity, vulnerable populations, question discomfort, and confidentiality were addressed. Role of the researcher. The role of the researcher in qualitative research presented the concept of bias because the researcher brings to the study the perspectives, professional experience with the topic, knowledge, and a cultural lens that influences the data collection and analysis performed to support the study (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2017). Accordingly, the role of the researcher, especially in qualitative research, was a critical aspect of a study to comprehend. In this workplace incivility research, the interviews conducted served as interactions in which the interviewer and interviewee contributed as social entities, bringing their own experiences, identities, and stereotypical leanings to bear (Thorpe et al., 2018). In overcoming the biases that formed, the researcher in this study acknowledged those experiences and beliefs that might skew the research. Further, this researcher incorporated strategies to ask probing questions, listening to responses, thinking about what is heard, and ask more probing questions to delve into a deeper conversation for comprehension (Van Quaquebeke & Felps, 2018). Acknowledging to the interviewee and the reader the researcher’s past experience as a marriage and family therapist engaged in helping others communicate respectfully, and yet, committing to listening to understand through the interview process diminished the impact of bias. Upon conveying this fact, the researcher articulated the role during this study did not include serving as a therapist, but rather an elicitor of data, such that the researcher would consciously separate these roles. Moreover, this researcher sought to effectively convey the meaning of the data by employing a wide variety of sources, subject matter expert review, and the use of member checking to ensure participant perspectives were accurately captured. Additionally, the dissertation Chair read through this research objectively to detect indications of bias that may have gone unnoticed.
This chapter details the research method and design incorporated in the study of workplace incivility through a qualitative case study of a group of facilitators confronting this social phenomenon, in the Washington, D.C. metro area, during the period between 2016-2018. The problem addressed in this study was the dearth of research associated with the root cause of workplace incivility (Miner et al., 2108; Schilpzand et al., 2016; Topp & Chipukuma, 2016). Although recent research had ranged from investigating the antecedents and aftermaths, to proposing potential interventions, the most prominent gap remaining related to the underlying origin of workplace incivility. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the underlying reasons for workplace incivility. This study logically investigated the research problem related to the origins of workplace incivility and subsequently answered the three research questions associated with the genesis of and organizational contributions to workplace incivility from a cost-benefit perspective to possibly inform the social exchange theory. The type of qualitative research design incorporated in this study involved a case study. Qualitative research is suitable for advancing a profound understanding of an activity or social setting as perceived by the research participants (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016). Case studies are excellent for illuminating the complexities surrounding causation (Houghton et al., 2013). Case study designs encapsulate a rigorous description and analytic effort exploring a social phenomenon bounded by time or activity (Bloomberg & Volpe; Yin, 2014). With the purpose of the planned research associated with workplace incivility to explore the “how” of the developing uncivil behavior and the “why” it perpetuates, the case study was the optimal choice for the study’s design to explore the challenges of an organization confronting incivility. To overcome the traditional validity and reliability limitations recognized in qualitative research, the study concentrated on correctly expressing participant perceptions (credibility) and clearly articulating the processes and procedures incorporated in the research (dependability). Further, transferability was dealt with by describing the selection of a representative sample, though this is the weakest link of a case study design, and presenting rich descriptions of the data collected (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016) to enhance the ability to apply the observations to other settings. Finally, trustworthiness was addressed in conveying transparency regarding potential bias, study limitations, delimitations, and revelations not expected, but learned along the way (Hadi & Closs, 2016). Furthermore, triangulation and member checking were implemented to support data saturation and verification of the researcher’s interpretation of the data. The target population included approximately 1,233 trained organizational culture facilitators charged with assisting workforces deal with culture issues such as workplace incivility who work in the Washington, D.C. metro area (Mid-Atlantic Facilitator Network.org, 2019, January 21). A sample was selected from a specific agency with approximately 175 affiliated facilitators providing either training for new facilitators or aiding organizations dealing with issues such as workplace incivility. A sample including 12 trained facilitators within a consulting agency (OCCA), who were familiar with the organizational challenges related to workplace incivility, provided initial data. Further, this study used purposive sampling, which capitalizes on a repesentative sample of participants that characterize the target population (Van Quaquebeke & Felps, 2018), to assess differences and similarities of the collected information from facilitators and agency documentation, using a practice known as triangulation advocated by Carter et al. (2014). The total of 12 interviews conducted was considered adequate to achieve data saturation based on the emergence of no new themes. The study procedures were detailed to support study replication. The primary method of data collection described leveraged semi-structured, in-depth interviews, with open-ended questions to elicit distinct and rich perspectives (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2016) followed by a thematic analysis through manual techniques as well as using NVivo software. Study assumptions, limitations, and delimitations were identified to highlight the potential biases, weaknesses, and scope constraints, along with their implications and possible mitigators. Ethical assurances were at the foundation of the credibility and integrity of the study. Directed by the 1979 Belmont Report, the principles associated with the respect for persons, beneficence, and justice were illuminated by how this researcher addressed them throughout the study. Additionally, specific attention was given to the possible risks to the participants and the role of the researcher in enhancing the veracity of the research. By adhering to the prescribed methodology and protocols, the researcher had the ability to draw conclusions from the collected and analyzed data. Through the inductive approach inherent in qualitative research, this researcher analyzed the raw data captured, converting it into codes, to detect themes and give meaning to the origins of workplace incivility. These interpretations are presented in the next chapter that details the findings of the study.
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