The long road to employment: Incivility experienced by job seekers

Abdifatah A. Ali, Ann Marie Ryan, Brent J. Lyons, Mark G. Ehrhart, Jennifer L. Wessel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


This study addresses how job seekers' experiences of rude and discourteous treatment-incivility- can adversely affect self-regulatory processes underlying job searching. Using the social- cognitive model (Zimmerman, 2000), we integrate social- cognitive theory with the goal orientation literature to examine how job search self-efficacy mediates the relationship between incivility and job search behaviors and how individual differences in learning goal orientation and avoid-performance goal orientation moderate that process. We conducted 3 studies with diverse methods and samples. Study 1 employed a mixedmethod design to understand the nature of incivility within the job search context and highlight the role of attributions in linking incivility to subsequent job search motivation and behavior. We tested our hypotheses in Study 2 and 3 employing time-lagged research designs with unemployed job seekers and new labor market entrants. Across both Study 2 and 3 we found evidence that the negative effect of incivility on job search self-efficacy and subsequent job search behaviors are stronger for individuals low, rather than high, in avoid-performance goal orientation. Theoretical implications of our findings and practical recommendations for how to address the influence of incivility on job seeking are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-349
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Talya Bauer and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and feedback. additionally, we thank Phil Gardner, Executive Director of Career Services Network and the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, for his assistance with recruitment and data collection. Also, the first author gratefully acknowledges the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program for providing financial support for the preparation of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Psychological Association.


  • Goal orientation
  • Job search incivility
  • Job search intensity
  • Job search self-efficacy


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