Instilling a culture of civility is integral in shaping how internal and external individuals perceive the organization. When there is bad behavior in the workplace, it puts employee morale, safety, quality, productivity, and compliance at risk. Employees are the most significant investment for any organization, and thoughtful consideration should be paid to their experiences and behaviors while at work.
A recent study by UCF shows that “isolated incidents of rude behavior at work, although somewhat common, do not point to widespread incivility between employees and their colleagues”. This means that most of the time, incivility originates from a single source rather than many employees displaying uncivil behavior.
Even as some workplaces remain remote due to the pandemic, uncivil behavior can still happen as there are plenty of opportunities for miscommunication in the virtual space. Regardless of where you’re working, employees should take steps to maintain good working relationships with coworkers—being extra thoughtful about how you’re communicating, whether on a video conference or over a messaging app and holding yourself accountable will go a long way.
Impacts on Employees and the Workplace
Even though some instances of uncivil treatment may seem minor, there are both short- and long-term repercussions. Research by Porath & Pearson found that of workers who experience uncivil behavior from their colleagues, 78% become less committed to the organization, and 25% take their frustrations out on customers.
Plus, people who are not directly experiencing incivility may be impacted. Much like how COVID has spread, it doesn’t take long before many people are affected. Once the damage is done, it may still be curable through employee training and counseling, the effects are not reversible.
Employers and managers specifically have a responsibility to their employees to keep them safe—physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Beyond employee wellbeing, repercussions for employers include:
- Attorney fees and potential settlement costs
- Reduced engagement or disengagement
- Poor decision making
- Decreased efficiency
- Unspoken concerns with tragic results
- Increased turnover
- Lost opportunities
- Brand damage
Even if the offender is not malicious in their intent, their actions can still result in major issues for the organization. Letting problems fester without intervening will cause long-term issues for the organization that can prove catastrophic.
One real-life example of this is the Ellen DeGeneres controversy that broke last year, where employees stepped forward with claims that the set was a toxic work environment. In contrast to her on-air persona of being nice and friendly, a flood of accusations painted a much different picture of the daytime host. Despite the show’s popularity, the damage was done, and The Ellen Show is coming to an end in 2022, after its nearly two-decade run.
Spotting Uncivil Workplace Behavior
Uncivil behavior can come from coworkers, managers, and even the CEO, and it’s important to catch and address it early on to avoid further undue stress or resentment. But uncivil behaviors can sometimes fly under the radar. Unlike bullying, these behaviors can seem minor, like ignoring a coworker’s request or talking behind someone else’s back.
When trying to identify uncivil behavior, ask yourself if the action results in any of the following:
- Marginalizes performance of individuals
- Prevents another person from contributing fully
- Discourages people from speaking up
Don’t forget that your employees are your eyes and ears on the ground. It's often uncomfortable for employees to raise concerns about a coworker, due to reasons like fear of retaliation, doubts that any action will be taken, or fear of public perception. Management should provide employees with a safe outlet to be candid about their experiences to help minimize these fears and encourage them to speak up. If your company is fully or mostly remote, uncivil actions can be even harder to spot since you can’t see people’s interactions on the day-to-day. Providing this safe outlet for employees is key to your organization’s success in preventing incivility.
Then, when an employee reports incidents of uncivil behavior, this information should be dealt with accordingly to ensure that their experience isn’t being minimized or disregarded. This also sets the example for any future issues and shows that bad behavior will not be tolerated.
Tips for Prevention
Ultimately, it is the leadership’s responsibility to set an example for employees and set and maintain expectations for the organization. While the virtual environment may present added challenges, from the second an employee starts work for your organization, they should be provided comprehensive guidelines for actions in the workplace. A zero-tolerance policy for uncivil behaviors is key to laying the groundwork for your organization. However, proper training for all staff, including management, is key to best upholding the details outlined in the policy.
At its core, uncivil treatment happens when respect is not on the table. So, remember the golden rule—treat others how you want to be treated. Christine Porath, professor and researcher, reports that people who feel respected are 56% healthier, 92% more focused, are 1.1 times more likely to stay with the organization, and 55% more engaged.
Regardless of if there’s uncivil behavior in your workplace or not, we encourage all organizations to continually work towards improving their workplace’s civility. You want employees to want to come to work, and with the bonus effects of improved performance, better retention, and more, it should be a no-brainer.
An easy way to improve civility and boost employee morale is to reward positive behaviors. This doesn’t need to come in grand gestures and can be something as small as a simple thank you. At Archbright, we give virtual “high-fives” that are on display for the whole company to see to recognize teammates on a job well done.
We encourage you to develop your skills and learn from other leaders at PNW organizations at Archbright University’s Civil Treatment Workplace for Leaders class! Throughout this half-day course, participants will gain the skills to nurture a civil treatment work environment from the top down and help you to avoid common mistakes.
For other questions, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.