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The Price of Pettiness

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The Price of Pettiness

Bad Behavior in the Workplace and How to Stomp It Out


15 min read
7 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Workplace pettiness is a ubiquitous problem; people often go to absurd lengths to drive their co-workers crazy.

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


Alex Alonso, an industrial-organizational psychologist, decided to study petty behavior scientifically after his mentor of 10 years burned their relationship. An executive at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Alonso polled 15,000 HR professionals to determine the extent and level of pettiness within their workplaces. He provides a new theory of pettiness that describes the intensity of behavior and severity of outcomes, and offers wild, true stories of pettiness. Alonso also provides a useful checklist for recognizing petty behavior in yourself and others.


Psychologist Alex Alonso applied scientific discipline to studying pettiness.

Psychologist Alex Alonso offers a new theory of pettiness that examines the intensity and severity of petty behavior. He divides his overview into four quadrants that represent petty behavior as trivial, minor, major or significant.

Trivial incidents involve annoying or unpleasant behaviors that don’t affect outcomes. Minor incidents are obnoxious or mean-spirited, and people notice them, but they generate few repercussions. Major incidents involve behaviors that can damage a person or an organization in the short-term. Significant incidents can generate long-term, damaging consequences for an individual or organization.

According to a Pettiness in the Workplace survey that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted in 2019, 75% of respondents reported that perpetrators suffered no official consequences. When workplaces don’t respond to pettiness, it erodes employee trust and lowers morale.

Trivial incidents are annoying, unpleasant behaviors that don’t change outcomes.

Employees at an elementary school were required to wear closed...

About the Author

Industrial organizational psychologist Alex Alonso is chief knowledge officer at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

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