Incivility, Rudeness and Disrespect at Work
Given the many examples of rude, inconsiderate and downright mean behavior we see all around us in the world, we can sometimes wonder if we really live in a civilized society.
Stressed and angry commuters cut others off in traffic; shoppers barrel their way through the store to get the last popular item on sale; we’d prefer to use the ATM or self-serve check-outs rather than deal with a surly or unhelpful bank teller or sales clerk; political campaigns sound like belligerent children not getting their way.
Is it just a lack of manners, or have we grown into a self-centered, selfish lot who thinks we’re the center of the universe and everyone else is only here to cater to our needs? Many think this is just the millennial, but I think we all know it goes far beyond just that group.
It used to be we could at least expect civil behavior at work. But that doesn’t seem to be the case now, either. What cost does it exact? It can be more psychologically damaging than harassment or even isolated incidents of violence because it’s more insidious and ongoing.
Researchers Christine Porath, Ph.D., associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and Christine Pearson, Ph.D., professor of global leadership at Thunderbird School of Global Management have conducted research on incivility in the workplace and it’s costs for many years. They also co-authored a book titled, "The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It."
Their research points out that the costs of rudeness and incivility eat away at the bottom line. While nearly everyone who experiences such behavior reacts negatively, some will overtly retaliate. Employees are less creative when they are treated disrespectfully, and many end up quitting. Studies showed that about half knowingly and deliberately decrease their effort or lower the quality of their work. Incivility damages customer relationships, both when employees are rude and disrespectful to customers, but when customers see such behavior directed at others; customers don’t want to deal with a company that would tolerate such behavior. Porath and Pearson say that witnessing just a single unpleasant interaction leads customers to generalize about other employees, the organization, and even the brand.
The costs to the organization can be significant. Among workers who’ve been on the receiving end of incivility:
- 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work
- 80% lost work time worrying about the incident
- 63% lost work time avoiding the offender
- 66% said that their performance declined
- 78% said that their commitment to the organization declined
- 12% said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment
- 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers
- Are unhappy with how incivility is handled at their company or organization (3 out of 4 companies)
- Are afraid to say anything about incivility due to repercussions or they will not be up for promotion if they do (more than 50%)
- Have reported incivility to their HR department or Employee Relations Manager (9%)
What does incivility and disrespect at work look like? Here are some examples:
- Using someone else's ideas or initiatives as your own to gain a higher status in the company
- Not admitting when mistakes are made or blaming others for mistakes
- Routinely being late for meetings, or "forgetting" about them
- Being physically "absent" at meetings by not participating or focusing on the agenda, texting or emailing (or otherwise not paying attention)
- Interrupting to get your idea across and keeping others from having their opportunity
- Demanding or expecting others do your bidding without the niceties of "thank you" or "please"
- Not being considerate of others’ time and schedules
- Keeping crucial and non-crucial information to yourself in order to look better than everyone else, or simply not being considerate enough to pass along needed information
- Avoiding issues that need to be addressed or letting others face the consequences on their own
- Not following policies, procedures, workplace rules; with an attitude that they don’t or shouldn’t apply to you
- Expecting others to pick up or clean up after you
- Not answering emails or phone calls and leaving folks stranded by not offering support or answering questions
- Having temper tantrums when under stress or when things do not go as planned
- Purposely embarrassing folks in front of others and creating an atmosphere of fear and hostility
In order to build and maintain a viable, healthy organization that is capable of reaching its full potential we must be able to manage our interpersonal relationships in a way that promotes positive interactions that are civil and respectful. We can accomplish that in several ways.
- As a leader insist that your organization will focus on civility in the workplace
- Create and communicate expectations regarding the topic of civility in the workplace and encourage participation from others to set standards and ground rules
- Follow up and document through your performance management process
- Be consistent and address issues immediately to help eliminate stressful and unwarranted incivility in the workplace
- Expect civility of everyone in the workplace.