Leisha DeHart-Davis’s Article on Workplace Incivility Honored with Best Article Award

Faculty member Leisha DeHart-Davis is the most recent member of the UNC School of Government faculty  to win national recognition for her scholarship. An article she co-authored, "Gender, Race, and Experiences of Workplace Incivility in Public Organizations", was recently selected as a co-winner of the 2022 Best Article Award for Vol. 41 of the Review of Public Personnel Administration (ROPPA).

In choosing this annual award, ROPPA aims to celebrate research that examines important topics in public administration, advances the knowledge base around it, and raises questions for the field to address moving forward.

A troubling trend public sector organizations have recently faced is a shortage of workers, particularly in retaining them in governmental positions and losing them to the private labor market. To address this, DeHart-Davis and colleagues from Ohio State University, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Massachusetts Boston sought to examine how the public sector can remain competitive in retaining this sector of the workforce. The answer they found? Create an environment where coworkers treat each other well across gender, race, and other assorted demographics.  

“Workplace incivility has been on the rise for a while and can hamper a government organization’s ability to retain good workers. Retention is a particularly important goal for government organizations given the worker shortages they face,” DeHart-Davis said. “To be competitive in the labor market, government organizations need to offer great workplaces, which include employees being respectful of one another.”

To arrive at this conclusion, the School’s Local Government Workplaces Initiative—a program led by DeHart-Davis which conducts research that helps cities and counties improve their workplace climates—collected data responses from a survey asking employees about a range of workplace experiences. The data for the paper was based on responses from two cities and two counties.

For DeHart-Davis, the collaborative approach to addressing this issue of increasing public sector retention perfectly illustrates the unique opportunity the School can provide to its scholars, when connected with other institutions of academia, to connect theory with practice and find concrete solutions to pressing public sector challenges. To be recognized by ROPPA was a welcome honor for the research team, fostering a needed dialogue around strategies to improve human resource management within government.

“ROPPA is a great journal, so it’s an honor to be published there,” said DeHart-Davis. “This award reflects the work of a team of talented researchers from all over the country. It also demonstrates how engaged scholarship works: that practitioner-relevant data can translate to academic research on public sector organizational dynamics.”