How Do Leaders Effectively Deal with Incivility?
by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC
More and more I am hearing from leaders the challenges they are experiencing with workplace incivility. This wasn’t a term I had really heard too much until recently. Wikipedia defines it as “low-intensity deviant behavior” with ambiguous intent to harm the target. There is a difference between harassment, violence and incivility. The behaviours that are normally associated with incivility include insulting or rude comments, telling lies about other people, spreading false rumors, social isolation and just plain bad manners.
So what is the leader of an organization to do? Don’t they have more important things to attend to then what some might consider petty. Nothing could be further from the truth. This type of behaviour can have a negative impact on morale, relationships and ultimately the bottom line.
One of our alliance partners has been working with a number of organizations in both the public and private sectors, bringing awareness and education to their organizations. For those companies who are working with her they are experiencing higher levels of engagement and productivity, not to mention happier employees.
According to The Cost of Bad Behavior by Christine Pearson and Christine Porath, it is far more widespread than people realize—and incivility in the workplace has devastating effects. Here are just a few of the statistics from their research study of 800 employers:
- 96 percent have experienced incivility at work
- 48 percent of employees claim they were treated uncivilly at work at least once a week
- 10 percent said they witnessed civility every day
- 94 percent of workers who are treated uncivilly say they get even with their offenders
What a actions and behaviours are considered to be uncivil in the workplace?
- When an employee deliberately destroys an employee’s reputation
- Telling lies behind someone’s back
- Being obnoxious or rude
- Not providing all the information when they have it (purposely withholding)
- Even simple things like: not use manners such a please and thank you, interrupting or ignoring, checking text or email messages in a meeting, or arriving late to a meeting (generally overall being disrespectful of colleagues, managers and sometimes even customers)
There is a lot of time and money invested every year by powerful leadership teams who want to create a more engaged workplace and it can be a waste of time and resources if the culture is not one of respect. Teams that work in an environment that is disrespectful, often experience higher levels of stress and lower morale. Sick time increases and in some cases it can create angry employees prone to outbursts. Creating a civil workplace is not only good for the employees it is good for business and customer service.
Here are a few tips on how to create a more respectful workplace:
1. Increasing Awareness
By recognizing that incivility is an issue, it is time for the leaders to step up, acknowledge that it is happening and educate your employees. A lot of people don’t realize what is actually going on and causing them so my frustration at work. Leaders need to talk about what it is and what it looks like. There is a lot of research on the impact of incivility, this information needs to shared.
2. Workplace Standards Need to be Created
Create and publish clear, written standards for acceptable behavior and not acceptable behaviour. The Leaders in your organization must participate fully in the creation process and most importantly model the behaviour they want to see. Emphasize the importance of consistency in the respect for employees. It is a great idea to include civility as one of your values.
3. Training and Coaching
This step in critical to raise awareness as some folks may not view their behaviour as uncivil. Making sure employees know with certainty what is considered acceptable behaviour and what is not.
4. Open Communication and Feedback
Effective leaders know the importance of open communication and feedback. They need to set the standard and demonstrate what that standard looks like during every day activities. Employees need to feel safe in providing feedback at those times when incivility takes place. This is critical to the success of the program.Working in a civil workplace is good for workers, customers, leadership team and the organization as a whole. Many organizations are making the creation and maintenance of a respectful workplace standards part of their goals and values.