Everything You Need To know about Workplace Incivility and Its Impact On productivity


Uncivil behaviors can dramatically affect a business’ productivity by reducing the morale of employees and the quality and amount of tasks each of them can achieve. Creativity is affected when employees are treated with disrespect. Once it becomes known to clients, corporate image will be affected.

If you don’t deal with uncivil behaviors quickly, you may likely end up addressing the after-effects through low morale, turnover, and most importantly- productivity gaps. Are you willing to pay that price?

So, What is Workplace Incivility?  Incivility at the workplace can be defined as a low-intensity behavior that can be displayed through wrong actions such as being rude, impolite or discourteous- or violation of behavioral norms at the workplace.

Incivility is not always easily discovered by managers as it could be more subtle than yelling, bullying or physical violence at the workplace. It may appear in the form of interrupting someone in a conference meeting, eye rolling, making abusive comments, or speaking without respect to the other person, yet not making implicative comments that could lead to legal action.

To worsen matters, incivility is very subjective. What is uncivil to Jack may be overlooked or missed by Jane at the workplace. Therefore, it is more of a perspective and less of black-or-white conduct if compared with other undesirable issues at the workplace such as stealing, lying or sexual harassment.

Nevertheless, it is a significant disruption to your business productivity just like other extreme behaviors. It has even been classified as the ‘gateway ticket’ to workplace harassment and the creation of a competitive work environment which therefore needs to be attended to by every business owner.

Have You Examined the Impact of Workplace Incivility on Your Business Productivity?

A lot of business leaders and great entrepreneurs spend a lot of their time managing receivables, inventory and employee turnover- as well as several hard costs that are more obvious corporate expenses. Who cares about expenses related to incivility?

What is the Cost of Incivility?

Rudeness is a cankerworm that eats into your bottom line if not checked. Take note; most employees rarely report uncivil cases for fear of retribution or to avoid being seen as a complainer. Instead, employees worry in silence and reduce their productivity.

A research carried out by the Harvard Business Review has indicated that rudeness is increasing and contagious in the workplace. More individuals report experiencing incivility in the workplace than they did some 14 years ago-as at 1998 only 25% of individuals reported being treated rudely at least once every week, now it has increased to 98%.

Although the research did not establish the reasons more individuals display bad attitudes in the workplace these days, it, however, explains how incivility can spread, its effects on productivity, and what strategies to control it.

Studies indicate that a worker who is prone to incivility will be stressed and will likely:

  • 1. Avoid suggesting new ideas and innovations.
  • 2. Deliberately reduce their productivity.
  • 3. Decrease work quality.
  • 4. Avoid assisting others.
  • 5. Create inefficiencies as a result of avoiding the offender.
  • 6. Transfer the aggression on customers.
  • 7. Spend more time outside of work.
  • 8. Leave the company.

When incivility becomes known by the customers, it gives the company a poor corporate image and makes clients uncomfortable( making them seek solutions from your competitors).

Does Incivility affect Productivity?

Uncivil behaviors affect workers on various levels. It influences how they get along with other team members and the way they are perceived. This, in turn, influences both personal and team performance. Incivility has the potential to impact the productivity of your business by reducing work quality and the magnitude of work that can be carried out by the workforce. When employers maltreat their employees, or when they are poorly treated by colleagues at work:

  • 1. creativity is affected
  • 2. Teamwork and performance suffer
  • 3. Time is wasted in a bid to manage the scenario.

Not only these, but sales are also affected when clients witness uncivil behaviors. Research indicated that clients would rarely come back to purchase from a business in which they had seen workplace incivility.

6 Steps to Cultivate Civility in the Work Environment

  • 1. Model acceptable behaviors
  • 2. Do not make excuses
  • 3. Hold everybody accountable daily
  • 4. Define acceptable behavior
  • 5. Recruit and train for civility
  • 6. Pay attention to the larger world

If you have observed a general trend among your employee or tensions that are brewing beneath the surface, find out if incivility among your employees could be taking place.

Assuming the issue will die down is not the solution. Without quick intervention, productivity will undoubtedly be hampered.

Thus, there is a need to proactively review your workplace culture and adopt steps to reduce the instances of disrespect and encourage or reinforce respectful and acceptable behavior.

1. Model acceptable behaviors

You must have heard this before: Leadership is by example. As a corporate leader, you have to model the attitude and behavior you want to see in the workplace.

When it comes to establishing a culture of civility in the work environment, the onus is on you to speak respectfully and politely to everyone. Do not raise your voice, cut remarks, slam doors, talk over people, or give sideways glances that stop workers on their tracks. Also, avoid teasing comments that hurt.

2. Do not make excuses

If one of your employees confide in you about a recurring incident of incivility, do not dismiss the concerns raised because you do not concur with their perception.

If an individual feels dishonored in your organization, it is independent of what you think or feel. What matters is what they think or feel as it bothers them enough for them to take the bold step to confide in you. This is a pointer to an issue that could reduce productivity.

Some common excuses for disrespect include:

” That’s the way he behaves.”

” We have to put up with it as He brings in most of our big sales.”

” Everyone is affected. Welcome to the crib!”

” Anyway, that is none of my business.”

If you have ever made any of these statements as a leader, it’s time you knew that people problems affect their efficiency, and thus, the corporate productivity; more than any technical or logistical issues.

3. Hold everybody accountable daily.

Just like any human trait or habit, an individual will typically continue conduct that gives them pleasure than the one that gives them pain. This is the more reason to resolve issues relating to incivility as soon as it is noticed or brought to your attention.

If you discern that Jack usually interrupts Jane regularly in meetings, the complete step is to take him aside, point out what you notice and ask why he does that. Then. Encourage him to be more respectful and aware of his meeting conduct.

Also, if you discover Ariana excludes a teammate from crucial conversations, you must initiate a private conversation with her intimating her of how such actions could undermine creativity and affect teamwork.

In the case of corrective conducts, assume the offender is not deliberately rude. Uncivil manners are often the outcomes of stress, thoughtlessness, unconscious bias or misjudgment of corporate norms, and usually, can be rectified with a mild reminder.

4. Define acceptable behavior

Different units or departments may have different norms of action; it would be perfect for letting your team establish a list of what they feel are acceptable conduct and what is not.

For example, a hard-charging team of legal attorney may be used to loud arguments and talking over the other party, while the Human Resource department is quite comfortable when each takes a turn speaking.

To establish rules of behavior in the work environment, organize a meeting and let everyone agree on five to ten rules of conduct. This will create the basis for how everyone will react. Then, motivate coworkers to implement the standards they have established for themselves.

There might be some little differences in each department, and that’s okay. What matters is each team enhancing its efficiency and productivity while contributing to the overall mission of the organization.

5. Recruit and train for civility

One strategy to establish a culture of civility in the workplace is to recruit individuals who display signs of good manners deliberately. During the interview, pay rapt attention to how they relate and treat everyone they meet, from the receptionist to potential colleagues.

Ask these questions: Does this individual seem to listen and fully understand the questions before they begin to answer? Does he or she interrupt or talk over others? Does he or she pass cutting remarks about former workplaces and colleagues?

If a candidate shows such negative tendency during the interview, you already have a clue of what their conduct might be once they are employed and have settled into work.

Also, make use of your network to discover how a prospective employee is regarded by former colleagues. Toxic employees would usually leave badly treated colleagues and subordinates that you can find, you will need to dig beyond their résumé to know the information required to recruit for civility.

6. Pay attention to the larger world.

Current events influence workplace behavior.

For example, when disrespect is displayed by celebrities on social media, television and at public events, it becomes a norm. 3 to 6 months later, that rude behavior may bubble up in the workplace as well.

You can avoid such detrimental conduct from infecting your corporate environment by conversing with individuals who seem stressed by the economy, overwork, news event or personal situations.

Related Questions

What causes incivility in the workplace?  Current trends in the social space can influence behavior. When an individual is stressed by a news event, it could result in a transfer of aggression.

How can we create a culture of civility in the workplace?  Lead by example! Treat your employees the way you want them to treat others. Hold a meeting where everyone agrees on what makes an acceptable behavior.

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