Identifying Uncivil Behavior in the Workplace
Civility represents the social norms and rules that must be followed in order to positively and productively relate with others. When people hear the word “civility,” words that come to mind include respect, courtesy, tolerance, consideration, and a rational approach to conflicts. Behaviors that threaten positive and productive relations with other people, therefore, constitute uncivil behaviors and can result in huge losses for a company.
What behaviors can be considered as uncivil? There are many. Below are just a few examples:
- Failing to acknowledge another person’s presence: Ignoring other people’s greetings and well-wishes; going past a co-worker without so much as a nod or a greeting.
- Using abusive language: Being verbally abusive or using crude language
- Gossiping: It’s uncivil behavior to both instigate and spread rumors against another person, regardless of whether the “news” seems accurate or relevant to the accomplishment of the task at hand.
- Discounting employee contribution: Discounting means deliberately downplaying or ignoring the importance of another person’s statement or work contribution. For instance, some members in a team may tend to cut off a person that they do not like during a brainstorming session. Taking credit — or worse, compensation! — for work that you did not do is also an example of discounting behavior.
- Bullying and intimidating co-workers: Threatening violence against co-workers who would report timesheet irregularities to management; leveraging the power of cliques in order to ostracize particular individuals.
- Sabotaging individual and company efforts: Intentionally not informing a co-worker who is competition for a promotion of the exact time a client will arrive in the building.
- Discriminating against a particular individual or group: Attacking an individual based on intrinsic characteristics such as race, gender, age, mental ability, and physical appearance.
- Practicing insensitivity against co-workers’ needs: Inability to pay attention to the feelings and needs of others e.g. not giving a grieving co-worker time off before demanding workplace attendance. Insensitivity may also come in the form of engaging in activities distracting to co-workers, e.g. taking a cell phone calls while in the middle of a meeting, not cleaning up the whiteboard as one leaves the training room, and demanding attention from subordinates outside of the prescribed working hours.
- Practicing poor etiquette in dealing with correspondence: Ignoring phone calls and emails, using company email to send private messages, and discussing individuals in mailing lists as if they are not there.
It’s worth noting: civility goes beyond mere good manners.
Civility is about effective self-awareness and effective social awareness. You can’t be an effective practitioner of civility until you recognize your place in the general scheme of things, and you develop an appreciation for the unique contribution of all else around. It’s a delicate balance between pursuing self-interest and practicing self-control in order for others and the organization to pursue their interests well. For this reason, effective programs on civility must always be prefaced by a training workshop on attentiveness to self and others.
Negative Effects of Uncivil Behavior in the Workplace
Consider the following negative effects of these behaviors in the workplace:
- High Employee Turnover. A high attrition rate in a company is a costly situation for management. Not only will companies have to incur the extra expense of recruiting, screening, and training replacements, but the investment of having trained the staff members who leave never gets recouped.
- Poor company productivity. Even if employee turnover rate remains stable, incivility creates roadblocks to the maximization of company resources — including manpower. Rudeness from co-workers creates stress in the workplace, which makes it difficult for employees to concentrate.
- Health-related costs due to workplace stress means financial losses for companies, and incivility in the workplace is a significant cause of workplace stress.
- Low customer retention. Incivility in the workplace doesn’t occur in a vacuum, as employees don’t just interact with one another, they also interact with customers and clients. business. When a consumer has many options to choose from, it may just be civility from company employees that will serve as a business’ competitive advantage.
- Lawsuits and settlements. Let us not forget: incivility in the workplace can also result to critical incidents that can progress into a court case. Persons victimized in the jobsite are encouraged by many today to act on their situation and file a lawsuit in defense of their rights, and when proven to be wronged, the resulting pay-off in terms of damages can be quite high.
- A steady decline in company values and culture. Studies reveal that aggression begets aggression, and that even low intensity acts of aggression in the workplace can spiral into serious problems when left unaddressed. Hence, even mild interpersonal conflicts can progress to actual shouting matches that disrupt work if unattended. And over time, the repeated protection of instigators by management can erode the company culture and communicate that incivility is not just tolerated, but also considered as a way to become “part of the team.”
Creating a civil work environment is key not only to the happiness of your employees but to your business.
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