Everyone at the company knows how “clique-y” Jennifer can be. Most days, she only chats with her select group of friends in the break room; for anyone else, they usually just get the silent treatment.
Miguel is no stranger to finding the juiciest gossip to chat about during his lunch break. Chances are, if Miguel is in the room, there’s sure to be good story about a co-worker’s personal affairs.
Bob is one of those managers that just can’t keep his cool, and he is known for his outbursts and threats. Each week, he thinks building motivation amongst his staff comes in the form of belittling and yelling at his employees.
Sound familiar? Chances are you’ve encountered one of these behaviours in your workplace. Uncivil behaviours can occur in any organization, at any level. If these behaviours are not addressed properly, your organization could be turning that molehill into a mountain of negative morale. Over time, these behaviours could lead to increased absenteeism, harassment and overall stress levels for your employees, and lost business for your organization.
This article will provide you with essential information on uncivil workplace behaviours, what you can do to spot these behaviours, and will help you find the best solutions for creating a more respectful work environment.
The Costs of Bad Behaviour
According to Christine Pearson and Christine Porath’s “Cost of Bad Behaviour,” incivility affects both our motivation and our ability. When our motivation is worn down, we stop performing our best due to a decline in job satisfaction. In turn, our work performance goes down. When we encounter uncivil workplace behaviours our ability declines due to physical and cognitive stress. In other words, incivility has a price, and often we find ourselves paying for it in some way. Incivility often works in a spiral, causing retaliation and acts of mini-aggression, because our human instinct is to combat the incivility by “getting even.”
Employee feedback has the power to inform and guide leadership. Take a look at these statistics on the effects of incivility. The numbers are based on a study that surveyed over 2,400 workers, managers, and executives in North America regarding their responses to incivility at work. The survey included people across a wide range of industry types and sizes. Here is a snapshot of the effects of incivility on employees:
- 48% had lower work effort
- 47% decreased time at work
- 38% declared lower work productivity
- 66% reported decline in work performance
- 63% lost time avoiding offender
- 80% lost time worrying about an incident
- 78% declared lower commitment to organization
- 48% experienced incivility at least once a week
- Almost 100% spent several hours analyzing the event
Know What to Look For—Incivility 101
So what exactly constitutes “incivility?” Is it serious enough to worry about? Incivility includes a variety of behaviours that tend to fly under the organizational radar and are frequently never addressed. Uncivil behaviours seem like small potatoes, but they can lead to larger problems if left unchecked. Incivility differs from harassment and violence, but continued uncivil behaviours can lead to these more serious problems within the workplace. Incivility is generally regarded as “rude, discourteous, disrespectful behaviour with ambiguous intent to harm, and it is usually unclear what the person’s intentions are.” Classic forms of incivility can include:
Play Good Defense
Uncivil behaviours have many potential underlying reasons. Incivility can be episodic or longer-term. Incivility can result from working long hours, stress, or inflexible personalities. Mounting uncivil behaviour can affect the work environment by spreading throughout the organization with a “mushroom effect.” If not addressed, incivility can quickly invade the heart of the organization causing more harm than the initial action that started it all, like a forest full of fungi. Keep an eye on the number of hours your employees are working or their workloads and encourage downtime and stress management techniques.
Persistent and unaddressed incivility may also erode your bottom line through poor customer service. Driving away your customers with bad behaviour is a sure fire method for driving down profits and any services you want to provide. When one of your employees is rude or discourteous to a customer or client, your customers will probably feel like taking their business elsewhere. See HRdownloads' Customer Service Standards Policy and Customer Service Feedback Form to ensure your customer service standards are consistently met.
Be a Good Role Model
The role of management is a critical piece in the puzzle for preventing uncivil workplace behaviours. Managers can lead by example by following these principles:
Managers can foster a positive workplace culture by being good examples themselves. No one is going to respect a “shouting Bob.” Managers can start the conversation by integrating core company values with policies, plans and training. Refer to HRdownloads’ presentations on Respect in the Workplace and Anti-Harassment and Violence to kick start training and education for your employees.
Use a Winning Formula
Follow these three commandments to help reduce rude or aggressive behaviours and give your employees the skills they need to deal with these situations as they arise:
These days, workplaces can be mazes of complexity. Varying levels of responsibilities, hierarchies, and management, along with the digital fortress of computers, email, and texts have removed us from the regular practice of interacting and communicating directly with our colleagues. Even when we feel motivated to put thoughtfulness into practice we may face barriers to expressing this due to time constraints, workloads, stress, or other impediments. Now more than ever we need to re-visit our approaches to human civility and use these basic elements of respect regularly with our employees, colleagues, and customers. Remember our uncivil friends Jennifer, Miguel, and Bob? They have the capability to change their behaviours if given the right tools and training, and so do we.
Pearson, C.M., Porath, C. (2009). The cost of bad behaviour: How incivility is damaging your business and what to do about it.
Williams, K. D., & Sommer, K. L. (1997). Social ostracism by one’s coworkers: Does rejection lead to loafing or compensation? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 693-706.
Oaten, M. R., Williams, K. D., Jones, A., & Zadro, L. (2008). The effects of ostracism on self-regulation in the socially anxious. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27, 471-504.
Eisenberger, N.I., Lieberman, M.D., & Williams, K.D. (2003). Does rejection hurt? An fMRI study of social exclusion. Science, 302, 290-292.