5 ways to combat incivility and rudeness in the workplace
Posted October 30, 2016
The glare from across the room. The cutting remark about an employee’s performance. The gossiping down the hall. The disruptive outbursts in meetings. The silent treatment. They are a few examples of workplace incivility, which is taking its toll on work environments all over the country, according to new research.
The Society for Human Resource Management defines workplace incivility as “seemingly inconsequential, inconsiderate words and deeds that violate conventional workplace conduct.”
Over time, incivility can create stress, affecting organizational commitment, job performance, turnover and retention, according to the SHRM.
A recent study has found that 96 percent of employees have experienced incivility at work, with 48 percent of employees claiming they were treated uncivilly at least once a week.
And many strike back: 94 percent of employees who are treated uncivilly say they get even with their offenders.
The research was conducted by Christine Pearson and Christine Porath, authors of The Cost of Bad Behavior, based on studying more than 800 employers, which discusses how to spot the roots of incivility, rip them out and create a culture of respect.
The Workplace Bullying Institute has also taken action to combat workplace incivility by crafting the Healthy Workplace Bill, which plugs the gaps in current state and federal civil rights protections while holding employers accountable. The legislation, or similar versions of it, has passed 29 state legislatures, including Utah, where it applies only to state agencies. Supervisors and employees must be trained in how to prevent abusive conduct.
Here are five strategies to address incivility in the workplace:
Addicts are always told the first step toward recovery is admitting there is a problem. It’s no different with workplace incivility, according to Human Resources IQ. Most employees aren’t even aware of this harmful trend. To fix this, increase awareness by defining what workplace incivility is and describing what it looks like. Then share the research on the impacts of continued incivility. This will increase the sense of urgency to address and tackle the issue before it takes a toll on the workplace.
Create a culture that values civility
The SHRM encourages employers to create policies and codes of conduct aimed at encouraging employees to engage in positive ways.
Human Resources IQ also suggests a similar strategy by creating workplace standards that value the importance of civility. Those standards should be communicated to employees so that they can understand how to consistently demonstrate respect and concern for others.
Employees who model civility should be recognized and rewarded, so all employees see it’s a serious commitment and a value of the business.
Encourage individual feedback
Managers can open a communication channel by giving clear and concise feedback on a regular basis about what behaviors are expected in the workplace. “Feedback on an individual basis can really shape an environment,” Christopher Rosen, a professor of management at the University of Arkansas, told the Boston Globe.
This can be done by creating a safe work environment where employees feel comfortable asking questions and discussing problems. Human Resources IQ says organizational leaders need to lead responsibly and create a safe environment so employees are not fearful when sharing concerns or reporting incidents.
Use constructive criticism
There’s a difference between criticism and lessons of encouragement. The Harvard Business Review discussed the art of feedback, explaining that managers must keep in mind the purpose of feedback is to improve performance and to deliver that lesson in private.
"Negative feedback is a key tool in the effective manager’s kit. But you must use it wisely and carefully, or else they will do more harm than good," wrote Robert C. Pozen of the Harvard Business School. "Focus on potential future improvements, instead of dwelling on past errors."
Reconsider hiring methods
Serious issues are often resolved when eliminating the root of the problem. The SHRM suggests employers screen prospective hires for personality and conflict management styles during recruitment. Their research indicated that those with a collaborative style of conflict management are less likely to engage in uncivil behaviors. In contrast, those who use a more forceful, aggressive style of conflict management are more likely to be uncivil as well as to be targets of incivility.
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