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How to Assess Workplace Pettiness in Others

​This is the third of three excerpts adapted from The Price of Pettiness (SHRM, 2019), written by Alexander Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP.

The STOMP Checklist is more than a self-assessment. It can be easily applied to assess pettiness in others. I recommend its use in a variety of cases, including:

Mindfulness development. Using pettiness as a tool for understanding how to be mindful is arguably one of the more important applications of the STOMP Checklist. Mindfulness is invaluable when considering your own performance but is far more effective for helping others learn how to achieve a desired state of behavioral efficacy. Mindfulness flies in the face of behaviors that divide you from your present situation, and petty behaviors are among the most divisive.

Affect and job satisfaction. Affect is a term used in psychology to describe the experience of feelings or emotions—mood.  Pettiness is correlated to affect, specifically, to negative affectivity, the experience of negative emotions such as anger, fear and contempt. By extension, negative affectivity is a correlate of job satisfaction. Low job satisfaction is often correlated to negative affect.

Think about it: being in a perpetually bad mood is often the outward manifestation of being unsatisfied with your job. These outward manifestations often transform into other behaviors, like complaining and lashing out at others. Hello, pettiness!

Teamwork and structure. Imagine knowing people's individual Pettiness Indices. Now imagine having a project that requires effective teamwork. With that data in hand, you can put together exactly the right team mixture you want, and you can structure leadership mechanisms to optimize the pettiness quotient needed for success. In other words, the STOMP Checklist represents a pettiness profile for your teams and an easy-to-use predictor of how the team's breakdowns will manifest. What leader wouldn't want this data?

The STOMP Checklist

How often do you engage in the following behaviors?WEIGHTNever (-5)Hardly (1)Monthly (5) Daily (10)
Act immaturely or childishly3 
Act unprofessionally2 
Complain about noise levels1 
Complain about odors from food or other sources2 
Criticize or ridicule someone for being intelligent4 
Devote obsessive attention to inconsequential matters3 
Do not stop infighting among team members/
within or between teams in other business units
Discount someone's contributions because of a
personal bias or dislike
Exclude key stakeholders from meetings/
Generally contribute to or do nothing to address an
overall environment of pettiness
Instigate or encourage infighting among team members/within or between teams in other business units4 
Ostracize someone who has new ideas4 
Pick on someone who is unpopular4 
Play practical jokes3 
Push a personal agenda2 
Refuse to acknowledge someone's contributions4 
Refuse to work with someone3 
Suggest that someone lacks intelligence1 
Throw a tantrum4 
Take credit for someone's work or the work of a team4 
Torpedo, derail or cancel someone's project because of personal bias or dislike4 
Undermine a boss or co-worker to their peers3 
Undermine a boss or co-worker to their superiors3 
Withhold information from those who needed it to
perform their work
TOTAL = ? = Pettiness Index    


Alexander Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, is SHRM's Chief Knowledge Officer.


Visit the SHRMStore to order a copy of The Price of Pettiness.


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