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Workplace Incivility

The success of any organization lies on its ability to build an environment where the potential of every employee is realized and actively applied in realizing business objectives.

Employer brand today is a very important extension of any organization and it determines the ability of an organization to attract the best of talent and retain the best of the talent based on the job offerings and work life attractiveness.

The purpose of creating an 'employer brand' (sometimes referred to as the employment proposition) is to outline the positive benefits for employees of buying into the relationship with that employer. In practice the employer brand can be seen as an attempt by the employer to define the psychological contract with employees so as to help in recruiting and retaining talent.

The psychological contract offers a metaphor, or representation, of what goes on in the workplace, that highlights important but often neglected features. It offers a framework for addressing 'soft' issues about managing performance; it focuses on people, rather than technology; and it draws attention to some important shifts in the relationship between people and organisations.

The psychological contract associated with an organization is affected by the worklife behaviors and The work life and workplace behavior ranges along a continuum as depicted below

• Model Work Environment

• Healthy Working Conditions

• Incivility

• Hostile Working Conditions

• Hostile Work Environment

Workplace problems

The workplace problems are very much like the iceberg hidden, subtle, or unidentified.

Understanding Workplace incivility:

Workplace incivility was defined by Pearson and Anderson as “the low intensity deviant with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms of mutual respect.”

Uncivil behaviors are characteristically rude and discourteous and displaying a lack of regard for others, it is completely distinct from physical aggression and violence. Incivility is broader than interactional injustice (mistreatment by supervisors, managers and other organizational decision makers) as it can derive from employees at any level in the organizational structure.

Organizational incivility can represent the beginning of an upward spiral of negative organizational events, eventually escalating to coercive and violent employee behavior leading to the development of hostile work conditions and environment. This occurs when the employee or employees are targets of a series of low-level aggravating encounters leads to a tipping point, when the last minor injustice or uncivil behavior triggers intense retaliatory aggression, similar to the popcorn popping out owing to intense heat buildup.

What is workplace incivility?

Given the potential detrimental consequences of workplace incivility, the following behaviors in the workplace are considered as contributing to workplace incivility.

It is rude or disrespectful behavior that demonstrates a lack of regard for other employees, although it may be obvious, it’s often hidden, subtle, or only obvious in hindsight. The intent to harm, as perceived by the instigator, the target, or an observer, is often ambiguous or difficult to pin down or articulate giving rise to conflicting reactions. Incivility is sometimes it is intentional, but sometimes it is just plain thoughtlessness or insensitivity towards others.

So what is the big deal about incivility? (Adapted remarks of Professor P.M. Forni co-founder of the Civility Project Johns Hopkins University)

“Even small indignities (such as brushing one’s teeth in the water fountain, changing the room temperature without asking, or not refilling the office coffee pot) and minor cruelties (such as snubbing a co-worker or not inviting someone to a function when everyone else has been invited) take a toll on all employees - managers and workers alike. They add to the burden of stress and fatigue that is already present in the workplace and they have real consequences on the everyday lives of people. This is especially true when incivilities involve a fundamental lack of respect, such as eavesdropping, being loud, not acknowledging colleagues in the hallway, and gossiping

Examples of workplace incivility

• “Forgetting” to share credit for collaborative work

• Always taking credit; never taking blame

• Asking for input and opinion and then discounting or ignoring it

• Hindering access to information for others who need it to do their job; includes neglecting to pass on information, giving incomplete information, forgetting to tell others of telecons, meetings, web sites

• Over-ruling decisions and not providing rationale, information, or justification

• Failure to attempt or build consensus when needed

• Being condescending or patronizing

• Interrupting others without care

• Not listening

• Disrupting meetings (coming in late, answering cell phone or pager, sidebar conversations, constantly going off-topic, ignoring wishes of others, inappropriate behavior, and otherwise disrupting meetings)

• Interrupting or being a pest; trying to get someone’s undivided attention when they’re otherwise occupied or busy

• Using the last of the supplies without telling anyone you’ve done so (and worse, putting back an empty container so that it’s not obvious that the item is not available)

• Breaking equipment and then not asking for help or notifying anyone that the equipment is broken and not in service

• Being self-serving, egocentric, paying attention only to your own needs and wants

• Constantly being negative - it’s always someone else’s fault; this is a horrible place to work; management / union is always wrong.

• Inflammatory e-mails or intra office mails

• Loud talking, yelling, horseplay in relatively open spaces, operations floor, or in the cubicles area

• Taking food that’s not yours from the break room

• Slamming down telephone receivers, headsets, etc.

• Making rude remarks while on mute during a telecon or on speakerphone, or while keyed off on your microphone.

• Conversing in languages, that one or more team member does not understand while talking in general in a group.

• Engaging in idle gossip or spreading rumors.

The effects of workplace incivility are:

• Lowered morale of the employees.

• Reduced workplace citizenship behaviors (littering, carelessness with handling equipment and facilities, not taking care of others, etc.)

• Reduced team effectiveness

• Being uncivil to customers, clients, or others outside the immediate organization, office, or facility

• Sabotage, work slow-downs

• Tardiness, excessive absenteeism, sick leave abuse

• May possibly escalate to frequent confrontations making organization governance a nightmare.

• Decrease in productivity

• Grievances, lawsuits (internal and external to the organization)

• Attrition leading to the organization losing out on key performers.

• Organization Image takes a beating.

• Retaliatory behaviors, both at work and outside of the workplace.

Statistics to indicate the impact workplace incivility has on the workforce and individual employees (survey undertaken by university of North Carolina)

28% lost work time avoiding the instigator

53% lost work time worrying about the incident or future incidents

22% decreased their effort at work

10% decreased the amount of time they spent at work

37% decreased their commitment or loyalty to their organization

25% were satisfied with the way the organization handled the incident and the instigator

50% thought about quitting to avoid the instigator

12% actually did quit to avoid the instigator

Who is being uncivil to whom?

“Workplace incivility happens at all levels of the organization” as defined earlier; the following situations show the various levels where incivility might be exhibited.

• Team members are left out of the information loop

• Employees bad-mouth supervisors and managers

• Supervisors and managers bad-mouth employees

• Management tries to discredit union members in the organization.

• Union members belittle the management and spread rumors.

• People are rude to each other

• Employees feel entitled to bring their bad moods to work and act them out there

• A team member is forgotten when praise is being passed out for a team effort

• A boss asks for input and opinions and then ignores it

• Senior workers use so much jargon that newcomers feel left out.

“Us versus Them” may be present at all levels of the organization between groups, divisions and departments.

It is very important that organizations take notice of the fact that “WORKPLACE INCIVILTY IS a BIG DEAL and take appropriate steps to correct it.

The onus to correct workplace incivility lies on the individual and the individual should take the following initiatives to check workplace incivility

1) Monitor oneself: The individual should constantly be on a constant lookout and aware of his actions at work and check tendencies such as

– Taking out one’s frustrations or moods on others

– Learning how to reduce stress

– Watching for one’s own behaviors that seem to affect others adversely

– Learning to communicate more effectively (communication includes verbal skills, nonverbal skills, and listening skills)

– Taking responsibility for oneself and hold oneself accountable

– Learning to be assertive but not aggressive

2) “Develop a thicker skin; don’t be quick to take offense; don’t look for a fight”, individuals should not be overly sensitive and fast to react.

3) Appreciating diversity, acknowledging and appreciating the charm and uniqueness in others. It requires acceptance of the fact that “all are not alike” and using the differences in others to enhance one‘s and teams performance.

4)Role of workplace communication: According to Dr Tony Hill the following are the primal communication needs for civility

“Don’t make me wrong even if you disagree with me.” It is vital to ensure disagreements is with issues and not persons and issue remains the focus and the not the person.

“Let me know you understand me.” It is vital to communicate understanding to facilitate progress of the task at hand and smoother coordination.

“Tell me the truth with thoughtfulness.” It is vital to keep a humane consideration so as foster civility and come across professionally.

“Look for my honorable intentions.” It is imperative to develop a clear understanding of the others task initiatives before reacting.

“Acknowledge the positive within me.” It pays to be appreciative and recognizing the talents, potential and capabilities of all co-workers.

5) Adopt the five guiding principles for civility in the workplace. They are:

• Diplomacy

• Discretion

• Decorum

• Respect

• Accountability

These principles must be driven across the organization and actively exhibited by the top management of the organization by performing the following

• Establish clear expectations for interpersonal behavior throughout the organization.

• Use good communication skills, including listening skills in discharging responsibilities

• Address interpersonal skills and be sure to acknowledge good and civilized behavior as we see it

• Take a moment to assess the ways you treat others (important for managers and supervisors)

Awaiting your reactions and opinions please view the complete article attached to get the complete picture of the article


Attached Files
File Type: doc workplace_incivility.doc (84.5 KB, 1293 views)

It is a beautiful article and must be read by most HR managers
and Line Managers.
Employers Brand attracts talents, who are keen sharing the
Brand Image. But the talents are humans , who come in with
-different motives
-different values
-different expectations
-different traits
-personality profiles
This is the starting block for incivility.
It is a challenge for HR managers / LINE managers
to turn all these into common brand attraction
through various programs like
-job enrichment
-job rotation
-job promotions
-skill development
The healthy work condition could be added on
-team work development
with the help of
-shared values
These should be backed up by
-productive program
-rewards program
-employee satisfaction surveys.

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