What Is Workplace Incivility?
Pearson and Porath offer several examples of incivility:
- Taking credit for others' efforts
- Passing blame for mistakes
- Talking down to others
- Spreading rumors
- Setting others up for failure
- Belittling other's efforts
- Withholding information
- Making demeaning or derogatory remarks
- Taking resources someone else needs
- Paying no attention to people, texting during meetings, failing to return phone calls or respond to e-mail.
What's the True Cost?
Pearson and Porath have developed a system for calculating the actual cost of incivility. Essentially, you estimate the numbers of employees who will, for example:
- Lose work time worrying about an incident and future interactions with the offender
- Lose work time avoiding the offender
- Experience a lessened sense of commitment to the organization
- Intentionally reduce their efforts at work
- Intentionally reduce their hours at work
- Leave their jobs because of incivility
- Be indirectly affected by observing uncivil behavior
Add to that the number of customers who will turn elsewhere because they are turned off by the incivility they experience when dealing with you.
Once you know that, you calculate cost based on hours lost and sales lost. There are, of course, a number of assumptions involved, but the underlying result makes it clear: This is a bottom-line issue; uncivil behavior really does cost companies substantially.
The good news is, you can do something about it, and it's not overly time-consuming or expensive. Here's what Pearson and Porath suggest:
1. Set Zero-Tolerance Expectations.
Set clear expectations for civility from the top. For example:
"Treat each other with respect." (from Boeing's integrity statement)
"Treat everyone in our diverse community with respect and dignity." (from the mission statement of the Mayo Clinic)
"Nike was founded on a handshake." Implicit in that act was the determination that we would build our business based on trust, teamwork, honesty, and mutual respect. (from Nike's Responsibility Governance statement, which is reviewed and signed annually by every Nike employee.)
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2. Look in the Mirror.
Remember, say Pearson and Porath, that as individuals rise in the organization, they are less and less likely to hear negative information, including that about their own civility. Here's what the book suggests:
Self-examination. Ask yourself:
- Do I behave respectfully to all employees?
- Do I take my frustrations out on employees who have less power than I?
- Do I treat individuals, on whom I rely or who can do good things for me, better than others?
Peer review. Seek out the opinions of peers who may be straighter with you than subordinates.
Videotape. Videotape yourself at meetings. One CEO who did this was stunned: "I didn't realize what a jerk I sounded like."
3. Weed Out Trouble Before It Enters.
The easiest way to foster civility is to keep uncivil people out, say Pearson and Porath. No uncivil vendors, contractors, customers, or employees. To accomplish this:
Do thorough reference checks. Pearson and Porath were "stunned" to see that many firms don't bother with reference checks, or do very cursory checks.
Don't go on gut. Your gut feeling may generally be reliable, but collect evidence.
Desperation. Don't allow yourself to act hastily out of desperation, Pearson and Porath say. Take the time to be sure of a good hire.
4. Teach Civility.
Many offenders "just don't know any better." Pearson and Porath's research suggests that training can make a difference. For example, teach coaching, how to listen, how to respond, and how to receive and give feedback.
Also, include civility at performance rating time.
5. Train Employees and Managers to Recognize and Respond to Signals.
Many offenders reported to Pearson and Porath that their companies just didn't seem to care about how employees treated one another. The employee thinks, why should I bother if no one cares? Charge your supervisors and managers to be alert for signals of incivility.
- Are there certain people with whom no one wants to work?
- Are there certain managers whom no one wants to mentor?
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6. Put Your Ear to the Ground.
Combining 360 feedback and organizational data is very helpful at pinpointing problems, Pearson and Porath have found.
Organizational data, such as absence records and turnover stats, can reinforce 360 results. However, say Pearson and Porath, be very careful using these data. Take into account the many reasons why two facilities in different areas of the country, or doing different kinds of work, could reasonably have significantly different results on the various metric scales.
In tomorrow's Advisor, we'll feature more tips on improving mental health by controlling incivility, and we'll take a look at a unique wellness program with broader application.
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