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How Incivility May Be Ruining Your Workplace Culture

Incivility at work is on the rise. According to a SHRM survey, 66% say they have experienced or witnessed incivility in their workplace within the past month and 57% have experienced or witnessed incivility at work within the past week.

So, what is incivility?

It’s just a fancier word for rudeness or disrespect. As indicated by the statistics above, it is running rampant in our workplaces and in society in general. We text during meetings, gossip about coworkers, fail to respond to e-mails, leave messes for the next person to clean up, and forget to say “please” and “thank you.” These actions can be blatant and bold such as publicly criticizing a team member. They can also be more subtle and harder to pinpoint like ignoring coworkers or being unresponsive.

More examples of incivility at work:

  • Taking credit for others’ efforts

  • Passing blame for your own mistakes

  • Sending bad news through e-mail so you don’t have to face the recipient

  • Talking down to others

  • Not listening

  • Setting others up for failure

  • Non-verbal’s like rolling your eyes or signing loudly

  • Showing up late or leaving a meeting early with no explanation

  • Belittling others’ efforts

  • Leaving snippy voicemail or e-mail messages

  • Forwarding others’ e-mails to make them look bad

  • Making demeaning or derogatory remarks to someone

  • Withholding information

  • Consistently grabbing easy tasks while leaving difficult ones for others

  • Shutting someone out of a network or team

  • Paying little attention or showing little interest in others’ opinions

Impact of Incivility on Work Performance

Incivility can have a profound negative impact on your organization's performance and the morale of employees. Check out these outcomes from a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review.

  • 47% of those who were treated poorly intentionally decreased the time spent at work.

  • 38% deliberately decreased the quality of their work.

  • 80% of employees reported losing work time worrying about an incident of incivility.

  • 63% lost work time trying to avoid the offender

  • 66% admitted to a decline in performance.

  • 78% experienced a decrease in commitment to the organization.

I was listening to a podcast on the topic, and it was suggested that organizations appoint Civility Ambassadors. Shouldn’t we all be ambassadors for civility? I feel like it’s kind of sad that it’s come to this in many organizations.


5 Steps to Combat Incivility

  1. Hire the right people: During the recruitment process, assess candidates' interpersonal skills and their ability to work effectively as part of the team. If there are red flags in the recruitment process that might point to a lack of civility, don't hire them no matter how good their technical skills are!

  2. Offer training programsOffer comprehensive training programs that focus on empathy, active listening, conflict resolution, and respectful communication. Check out our Workplace Respect and Communication Training programs!

  3. Provide leadership development initiatives: Equip leaders with the skills to model and reinforce respectful behavior. Leaders should lead by example, demonstrating respectful communication and addressing incidents of incivility promptly and effectively.

  4. Reward civility: Recognize and reward employees who are respectful, appreciative, and model your core values.

  5. Establish norms and guidelines for respect: Have discussions within your teams about the importance of respect and civility and empower employees to hold one another accountable.

Check out some great resources on the topic that SHRM is offering here.

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