Walking on eggshells: A self-control perspective on workplace political correctness. Academic Article uri icon


  • Being politically correct involves an understanding that language and behavior can affect others, and a willingness to modify or suppress those words or actions to be sensitive and tolerant toward others. At work, political correctness may manifest as refraining from sharing a risqu joke out of concern of hurting others' feelings, altering language to be gender neutral, suppressing saying something that might be considered rude or insensitive, or avoiding controversial topics altogether. As employees are increasingly entrenched in their own opinions and beliefs, prone to microaggressions, and unwilling to entertain alternate views, political correctness should be of interest to managers and organizations. Yet, little research has been devoted to its study. This oversight is problematic because, although political correctness may manifest out of a concern for others at work, its enactment is also resource intensive-potentially acting as a double-edged sword for employees. To make better recommendations to managers, we must more fully develop our understanding of this understudied phenomenon. We begin the process of developing the nomological network of political correctness by drawing from theory on self-control to examine (a) an antecedent (other orientation) to understand why employees may be motivated to be politically correct with their coworkers, (b) a mechanism (cognitive resource depletion) that explains the cost of workplace political correctness, and (c) home-based outcomes (angry and withdrawn marital behavior) that suggest political correctness may impact others outside of work. Findings across five studies shed light on why employees may be politically correct and the consequences of doing so. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

published proceedings

  • J Appl Psychol

author list (cited authors)

  • Koopman, J., Lanaj, K., Lee, Y. E., Alterman, V., Bradley, C., & Stoverink, A. C.

complete list of authors

  • Koopman, Joel||Lanaj, Klodiana||Lee, Young Eun||Alterman, Valeria||Bradley, Cody||Stoverink, Adam C

publication date

  • March 2023