Team cohesion and employee satisfaction lead to better productivity and better results. We also know that a more functional team equates to more company dedication, as well as an extended tenure for the happy, engaged, and productive employee.

So why then, is incivility in the workplace on the rise? Because the correlation between workplace contentment and productivity is documented, one would think that employers might embrace and enforce a set of accepted corporate expectations for behavior, with the goal of eliminating incivility in the workplace. Unfortunately, not all organizations keep this front and center. Without awareness, training and corporate standards, damaging behaviors can gain momentum.

Incivility was found to contribute to 13 percent of organizations’ wasted time in the U.S. market, so it follows that employers are losing real dollars as a result. Can rudeness and poor behavior really cause turnover, conflict, and aggression? Read on to learn more about the link between incivility and decreased employee engagement, reduced personal satisfaction, and heightened anxiety or fear. 

What is Incivility?

Incivility is defined as “rude or unsociable speech or behavior.” How does this manifest itself in the workplace? It can manifest through demeaning language, taunting, yelling, or insults. Incivility is completely absent of mutual respect, an absolute necessity in the workplace.

The Challenge

With the apparent negativity, it’s no wonder discouragement and lacking engagement result. To counter – and combat – this culture, what can be done? The truth is, your power starts where someone else’s ends. You cannot control their behavior; in fact, it can be difficult to influence it. Fortunately, we are able to control our behaviors, and as leaders within the organization, we owe it to ourselves and our teams to do so. We can also listen to and gather feedback from our employees in order to identify problem areas.

Not being reactive to your attacker is difficult, however. Dr. Donna Hicks, an expert on dignity, found that parties who are wronged desire revenge against those who have violated them. This means you may not only feel the urge to correct the person who disrespected you, but the discouraging environment may also contribute to your inability to support others. We must remember the goal here – countering incivility.

How to Correct Incivility

First, be intentional with your behavior. Realize what’s in your control, and what’s not. You can control your reactions and your behavior. Outside of that, your job is to influence and be stable ground – a role model for your peers or subordinates. Remember the following simple, yet impactful ways to combat incivility and lead as a role model in your organization.

1. Choose Honesty

Being honest is unlike any other facet in a working manager’s life. It’s the bouillon base, so to speak. It’s what makes our core good – our speech true. When we look to honesty as our guide, we care less about our level on the totem pole or our perceived greatness. We care about being truthful to our people and upholding honesty as a core value. Honesty is not forgotten and when it’s the crux of our decisions – and our conversations – we support an environment that omits false pretenses.

2. Incorporate Acts of Kindness and Gratitude

Kindness and gratitude: terms we don’t often hear in the modern-day-corporate-American office. To be kind is to be considerate – to be thoughtful. To be grateful, on the other hand, is to be thankful and appreciative of those you work with, and who work for you. They are the core of your business! They are so important, and yet, we do little to recognize them. When we think about these individuals on a personal heart-felt level, we go beyond ourselves, think of others, and think of why we appreciate them. That personal touch should not be taken for granted. It’s an element of importance – one which we too often dismiss as “sensitive.” When it comes to a challenging, uncivil environment, the easiest tactic to implement is to recognize your employees, and their talents. In fact, implement a cadence for gratitude or kindness in your weekly/daily meetings!

3. Always be Listening

You may think this goes without saying, but it doesn’t. Part of what fuels a culture of “dismissiveness” is the inability to listen. When we listen, and do so actively, we learn a lot about how people think and feel. This knowledge can provide us insight into at-risk employees or shed light onto a scenario you can help remedy.

Engaging honesty, kindness, and active listening skills are three simplistic ways to encourage a healthy environment where incivility is unable to prosper. It is with these small but mighty actions that your teams will function more effectively, and poor behaviors will diminish.


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It’s powerful to know what your employees think! You can identify problems like poor supervision, communication breakdown, and mounting plans to leave your company before expensive turnover affects your business.

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