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Introducing a New Theory of Workplace Pettiness

August 06, 2019 / Alexander Alonso

Pettiness, the word that is, dates back to the 14th century, and derives from petit or "small", "minor" in Middle English/Old French. Today, we understand pettiness as a construct based on twentieth-century theories of motivation and personality informed by various psychological and psychoanalytical concepts including neuroticism, stress and stressors, self-image, intelligence, and many others. Seven hundred years after petty entered the vernacular, people are still "sweating the small stuff." More evidence and increasingly refined conceptualizations in the professional literature prove that pettiness is a defining personality trait, which can predict human behaviors (such as social deviance and patriotism) as well as states of mind (such as depression and life satisfaction). Over the course of the last year, my research team and I conducted a broad study to identify pettiness and how it manifests itself in the workplace. We asked more than 15,00...