Complaints of harassment, discrimination, bullying and now violence and disrespectful workplaces have become a standard concern for managers and Human Resources Specialists. As we cope with the many arising situations, I have found the word incivility is becoming frequently used. So what does incivility mean? To define it, let’s look at how the Institute of Civility describes it. Civility is about more than merely being polite. Civility requires a profound self-awareness being characterized by sincere respect for others. Civility involves the tremendous hard work of remaining present even with those with whom we have inherent and perhaps fierce differences. It is about continuously being open to hearing, learning, teaching and changing. It pursues mutual ground as a start point for discussions when variations may occur while at the same time be aware that differences are heartening. It is persistence, grace, and strength of character.
Recently research has expanded our practical understanding of incivility by identifying behaviours that employees have deemed disrespectful. The most frequently occurring forms include: neglecting to turn off cell phones; talking behind someone’s back; doubting someone’s judgement, using demeaning or disparaging language, gestures or behaviours; communicating with the intent to belittle or degrade, eye-rolling, giving the silent treatment and using sarcasm; gossip and slander; paying no attention or ignoring someone; taking credit for someone else’s work or ideas; intimidation by intentionally using fear to manipulate others. It may also include yelling, invading personal space, throwing things, slamming things and losing one’s temper, and sabotaging by setting someone up to fail or intentionally creating a situation to make another person look foolish or incompetent. Also, may include hate-ism by deliberately pointing at a victim based on age, gender, race or sexual orientation are instances of profiling because of an “ism.”
Many examples include blaming others rather than accepting responsibility; checking email or texting during a meeting; using email to send a difficult message to avoid facing the person, which may be misunderstood and misinterpreted; not saying “please” or “thank you”; not listening and talking over or down to someone.
The cost of incivility is high. It is not only about money! There is research to support impacts on performance through lost time and absenteeism, lack of creativity, less helpfulness and less likely to assist another employee. The impact of teams is on the level of energy, emotional engagement, and performance. The conduct reaches into our physical health, impacts our customers and commitment to the organization and willingness of employees to stay with their companies. All are affecting the bottom line of productivity.
So how do we address these issues? I would like to explore some recommendations for your consideration. It starts with us as individuals. Managing ourselves. How? If you throw a ball at the wall…it comes back. It works with people too. If you are, mean…it comes back! People will be mean to you.
How can you be kind and patient all the time when life is so stressful—and just plain hard? You do it by embracing civility! Civility requires self-awareness.
With self-awareness you can:
Control your attitude, manage your moods, and choose behaviours that do not negatively impact your life or disrupt those around you
Can you…fFeel and express annoyance, irritation or frustration without hurting others— and then let it go?
Accept and even appreciate that other people have needs and opinions which are different from your own?
Encourage and enjoy the successes of others?
Recognize when someone else feels irritated, upset or frustrated and keep yourself from reacting impulsively in response?
As leaders, we need to model. The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy wrote: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves.” Employees look to leaders for guidance and someone to aspire too. What are they seeing? Watch your language and put away your smartphones when engaging with your staff. Be mindful of the perils of emails and other electronic communication. Pick up the phone or set up a face to face meeting instead. Take immediate and corrective action when warranted. Rude and disrespectful behaviours emerge quickly and sometimes without warning. As a leader, you need to respond at the moment. By delaying a reaction or action, it sends out mixed messages to the offender as well as the entire team. Take all complaints seriously, realizing that coming forward by the individual is difficult, and they need to know they are supported.
We attend seminars and workshops on harassment prevention, Creating Respectful Workplace and Violence in the Workplace. I have put together a workshop on “How Embracing Civility can Create More Satisfying Work Environments.” The agenda is:
• Why Civility Matters
• It Starts with You!
• Do What You Say and Say What You Mean
• Good Fences Make Great Neighbours
• Working in the Salad Bowl
• Eliminate Gossip and Bullying
• You Can’t Always Get What You Want
• Taking It to the Extreme
• Paving the Path to Civility
Contact Monika Jensen if you are interested in an on-site workshop.