New research has found an eyebrow-raising link between how working mothers are treated at work and how they parent at home.

By Maressa Brown
August 14, 2018
KieferPix/Shutterstock

Obviously, juggling your career and mom life is stressful in and of itself. But add passive-aggressive treatment from a boss, clique-ish behavior from colleagues, or being the target of a coworker's derogatory remarks to the mix, and the groundwork has been laid for not only maximum stress—but a potential shift in how you parent. A new study, “Uncivil Workplace, Uncivil Home: Workplace Incivility and Harmful Parenting Behavior,” concludes that moms who have to deal with rude, hostile work situations may end up adopting strict, authoritative parenting strategies.

Presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association (APA), the research defined workplace incivility as any behavior that is rude, disrespectful, impolite, or otherwise violates workplace norms of respect. This behavior shows a lack of concern for others, according to co-author Kathryne Dupre, PhD, of Carleton University. 

“We now know, based on much empirical evidence, that the outcomes of workplace incivility are vast and negative,” said Dupre in a statement shared by the APA. “For example, being on the receiving end of workplace incivility has been linked to lower levels of effort and performance on the job, higher levels of stress, and impaired attention, information processing and decision-making.”

Taking a microscope to this topic required conducting an online survey of 146 working mothers and their spouses. Moms shared their experiences with incivility in the workplace and feelings on their effectiveness as a parent. Spouses also weighed in on the moms' negative parenting behaviors, both authoritarian (strict and controlling) and permissive. Researchers saw "a significant association between experiencing rude behavior at work and authoritarian parenting by working mothers at home," however "there was no association found with permissive parenting."

Moms who were dealing with a hostile workplace were also more likely to feel less effective as parents. Dupre explained that this could help explain the increased need to engage in strict, controlling parenting behaviors.

Sure, everyone has their own parenting style, and there are pros and cons to various kinds, but Dupre pointed out that the authoritative style highlighted by the study "has been associated with a variety of negative child outcomes, including associating obedience and success with love, exhibiting aggressive behavior outside the home, being fearful or overly shy around others, having difficulty in social situations due to a lack of social competence, suffering from depression and anxiety, and struggling with self-control.”

Of course many questions remain: What effect does a hostile work environment have on fathers? Although raising awareness about this issue is a step in the right direction, what measures can be implemented to curb negative behavior on the job? Here's hoping this research compels employers to take concrete action—for the sake of working parents and their L.O.s.

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