Social undermining is the opposite of social support. For example, in the context of the workplace, it refers to intentional offenses aimed at destroying another's favorable reputation, their ability to accomplish their work, or their ability to build and maintain positive relationships.
Social Undermining in the Workplace
According to Duffy, Ganster, and pagon, 2002 their definition of social undermining in a workplace is consider to be shown in behavior intended to hinder over time, not able to establish and maintain positive interpersonal relationships. Social undermining has played a big role in the workplace and there have been various aspects of social undermining that has affected the workplace and how it has affected specific races. In workplaces social undermining has connection with social interaction. Research has shown that in a working setting, if a person has a supportive environment they stated to have a more satisfied life. Social undermining can arise through the interactions you have with your co-workers and your supervisor, this can have an affect on the worker that is getting undermined and this can affect their work performance. Vinkour found in his study those predictive inverse relations between perceptions that there was significant predictive inverse relationship between perceptions of undermining and measures of mental health and personal well-being. The results of this study show that undermining has a significant role in worker-supervisor and co-worker relationship and that leads to various different outcomes such as feelings of irritability, anxiety, depersonalization, and depressions. This shows that social undermining would affect a person’s work ethics and well being, when a person does not have a positive outlook on their workspace they become miserable. Various different empirical studies have found that “undermining are the primary triggers of should, could, and would develop counterfactual thoughts.”. For example, such as “what would my life be like if I were not the target of undermining?” The findings from this find that “this rift plays a role in role determining the magnitude of the employee’s reaction to the event (Floger & Cropanzano, 1998, 2001) by making the deprived state more salient (Folger & Kass, 2000;Roese, 1994). Behaviors of social undermining can affect a person and there perceptions from the study that was conducted by Gant, Nagda, Bradson, Jayaratne, Chess, and Singh addressed the perceptions of African American worker’s perception of co-workers and supervisors. The researcher that was collected by Duffy, Ganster, Shaw, Johnson, and Pagon addressed the fairness theory was introduced by Folger and Cropanzano 1998 and this theory consist of various perspectives. The fairness theory is “suggest that individuals face negative situations (such as being undermined by coworker or supervision) they make cognitive comparisons known as counterfactual thoughts; i.e., they compare what actually happened to what have been. The results show that social undermining would be closely related to attitude and behavior to one person being “singled out.” While social undermining can affect a person behavior and attitude on their job also it bring about envy. It shows how envy can have a positive or negative effect and the positive addresses how it can be an increase in performance or attempt to self-improvement but it can also be a flip side to the positive. Envy can have some very harmful affects to the person or to others. The negative effects of envy can lead to aggression or crimes. This can be seen in a workplace when addressing social undermining because it can lead to belittling, gossiping, withholding information, and giving someone the silent treatment.
Social undermining affects a various amount of individuals such as children, family members, friends and spouse of loved ones. Social undermining involves different behaviors of criticism, negative affect and even places a certain amount of strain on an individual. It has been shown that individuals that experience social undermining has caused depressive symptoms. Depending on the relationship between the patient and their loved one the person that is giving support they can give undermining plus support within the same interaction which can increase the depressive symptoms. So having more social support and less social undermining can improve treatment out of a patient depending on the type of stress level the person is enduring from the people in their lives. Research conducted by Joseph, Myers, Schettino, Olmos, Bingham-Mira, Messer and Poland (2011) found that when participants are exposed to high levels of social undermining and even high levels of social support it can help improve the participants course of treatment. The high levels of social support and social undermining showed that it could reduce and also cause remission of the participant’s symptoms. The study also found that when African American participants had low levels of social undermining they fared more than the Caucasians participants to reduce their symptoms. When both groups of participants were given high levels of social undermining the African American participants had fewer achievements of their symptoms reducing. While the Caucasians participants had reversal effects of their symptoms being reduced. In another study about Spouse support: Positive and negative interactions found that having support from a spouse while having a serious illness can help the person to cope with their illness. Benyamini, Medalion and Garfinkel (2007) study wanted to find if positive and negative of interactions that are between the patients who have heart disease and their spouse can cause spouse support and spouse undermining. Undermining that is direct towards a person can be negative behavior of anger or dislike that can hinder their attainment of instrumental goals. When someone has a serious illness can cause the couple to make certain adjustment when it comes to their relationship. In the study participants were asked certain research question to see how the participants perceived their illness and suppose support. The researchers found that when the patient thinks of their illness as being negative they tend to want more support from the spouse and may even feel as if their support is not sufficient for their spouse. This can cause the patient to think they may be experiencing social undermining. But the partners that thinks of their suppose disease as being negative thinks that are giving the support that the patient needs. The spouse also feels as if they can be critical even committing social undermining toward the patient. This can cause the spouse to think that the patient is not taking their own condition serious. When the spouse shows that illness is serious it lead to the spouse to be over protective. This can also cause the spouse to be critical of their partner behavior and the partner can provide less support for the patient. Which is what the patient really needs and that is support. The results of the study found that the spouse of the patient that found the patient illness to be negative did give support but they also gave more undermining. When the patient thought of their illness as being negative they felt as if they were not given the support that they needed from their spouse. The spouse gave the patient more undermining when they felt as if the patient lifestyle could have contributed to their illness. The spouse was more likely to pay more attention to their partner lifestyle now that they have the illness. The study found that there is a correlation of illness perception and support/undermining for the spouses data. When the spouse had a more negative perception of the disease was related to the amount of support that the spouse would give to their partner. The study also found when the spouse and the patient did pay close attention to the patient lifestyle the patient felt as if there was friction between the two. This causes less support and more undermining from the friction that was being causes by both the spouse and the patient. There was less undermining when the spouse felt as if there was low control even though the patient felt as if there was high control. The patient can cope with their illness more and there is less room for criticism from the spouse. There was more undermining in the relationship when both the spouse and the patient had the same views on how to control the illness such as how the patient should exercise. Undermining can increase when the spouse feels as if they are receiving more consequences such as helpless for the illness when they feel as if the patient is not the spouse was more critical of the patient. The results even found when both the spouse and the patient are receiving low consequences. This study has shown that how the spouse and the patient are being supported or receiving undermining can affect the medical treatment plus the emotional outcome of the patient. Social undermining can have negative effects on people’s relationship with each other. In previous research has shown that negative social interactions between two people can have more of effect on a person well-being compared to positive interactions, basically saying that social undermining can have more of a psychological effect on a person of well-being than just support. Social support and undermining does have an effect on causing depressive symptoms. Research conducted by Horwitz et al. (1998) found that spouse undermining was almost twice as large as the effect for suppose support. For example a spouse that shows behavior of withdrawal, avoidant and being overly critical can cause psychological distress in a relationship. The psychological distress in a relationship can cause stress that increases the depressive symptoms on individuals that have endure high levels of social undermining. This can happen because the support that a person can get from their spouse compared to a close friend since a spouse is more exclusive and generally involves more frequent and emotionally intense interactions (Cutrone 1996; Vinokur & Vinokur & Vinokur- Kaplan, 1990) and depending on their relationship that can influence the social support or even the social undermining that effect the relationship. In study by James A. Cranford study found that spouse undermining and not spouse support can increase depressive symptoms within that relationship. Social undermining has been found to be a stronger indicator for psychological adaption than social support. When there is social undermining in a relationship it can have fatal effects on the spouse ability to deal with other stressors. It can also lead to an increase of wishful thinking, poor psychological adjustment, maladaptive coping behaviors, and even decrease adaptive coping behaviors. This can give more attention to coping resources and it takes away from other stressors which causes the couple to have fewer chances resolving their problems. If the couple cannot resolve their problems it can cause marital conflict. Social undermining within the relationship can cause negative effects on the spouse physical health and can make the spouse vulnerable to different stressors. This can also lead to depressive symptoms that can lessen the spouse self-esteem.
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Duffy, M.K., Ganster, D.C., & Pagon, M, 2002). Social undermining in the workplace. Academy of Management Journal, 45, 331-352. Folger, R. (1993). Reactions to mistreatment at work. In J.K.Murnighan (Ed.), Social psychology in organizations: Advances in theory and research, pp. 161–183. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
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Kasimatis, M., & Wells, G. (1995). Individual differences in counter-factual thinking. In N.Roese & J.Olson (Eds.), What might have been: The social psychology of counterfactual thinking (pp. 81–102). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum
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- Academic articles
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- Benyamini, Yael; Medalion, Benjamin; Garfinkel, Doron (2007). "Patient and spouse perceptions of the patient's heart disease and their associations with received and provided social support and undermining". Psychology & Health 22 (7): 765–85. doi:10.1080/14768320601070639.
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- Oetzel, J; Duran, B; Jiang, Y; Lucero, J (2007). "Social support and social undermining as correlates for alcohol, drug, and mental disorders in American Indian women presenting for primary care at an Indian Health Service hospital". Journal of health communication 12 (2): 187–206. doi:10.1080/10810730601152771. PMID 17365359.
- Pettit, Nathan C. (2010). "Get Off My Back! The Impact of Status Distance and Status Change on Social Undermining". IACM 23rd Annual Conference Paper. SSRN 1612873.
- Singh AK, Jayaratne S, Siefert K, Chess WA (1995). "Emotional support and social undermining as predictors of well-being". Indian Journal of Social Work 56 (3): 349–60.
- Stanforth, Dixie; Mackert, Michael (2009). "Social Undermining of Healthy Eating and Exercise Behaviors". ACsm's Health & Fitness Journal 13 (3): 14–9. doi:10.1249/FIT.0b013e3181a1b79a.
- Vinokur, Amiram D.; Van Ryn, Michelle (1993). "Social support and undermining in close relationships: Their independent effects on the mental health of unemployed persons". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65 (2): 350–59. doi:10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.520.