Incivility – The Productivity Killer

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Feeling undervalued? Ignored? Unmotivated? Or worse… disrespected?

Maybe you’re not, but your team could well be, and as a leader it’s up to you to set the civility bar high and maintain it.

Incivility can rear its ugly head in a multitude of forms; rudeness, inappropriate personal comments, passive aggressiveness or even humiliation. What might seem an off-the-cuff comment to one person can be deeply offensive to another, and that can have serious, negative repercussions. Acts of incivility can incur major costs. Financially, and perhaps most obviously, with lawsuits and litigations, but also in terms of damage to corporate reputation which can affect profit. High staff turnover and sick days, rehiring and time lost also affect the profit and loss.

But the more serious costs are to the individual. When someone feels disrespected, their performance inevitably goes down. They may consciously decide to reduce the quality of their work, or the number of hours they stay in the office. They’re also less likely to collaborate effectively with their team. They certainly won’t be motivated to give that little bit extra and they may even quit.

Subconsciously they may retaliate or disrespect a colleague themselves. They’re less likely to be creative or effective at problem solving. There will probably be neurological responses such as stress and anxiety, which can go on to have physiological repercussions. Their motivation will drop drastically as well as the desire to help their colleagues. When disrespectful incidents occur they contaminate the workspace and create toxic environments. Professor Christine Porath from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University has found that even witnessing incivility caused outcomes to decrease by half.

So how can you create and maintain a civil workplace?

Start with yourself – be the positive role model:

  • Identify your triggers so if someone does make you angry or frustrated you’re more likely to be able to control your reactions thus preventing further conflict.
  • Pause. Before you act, consider the consequences of the action. Be curious not furious.

In the office:

  • Demonstrate respect at all levels by being polite, courteous, and considerate and also by listening.
  • Acknowledge your employee’s contributions; give them the right kind of attention.
  • Express appreciation both publicly and privately; there are multiple ways to show thanks.
  • Value your employee’s time by keeping meetings as short as possible and recognising their workloads.
  • Be present in meetings and discussions; keep devices away.
  • Condemn and discipline disrespectful and uncivil behaviour. This will help set the right tone not only for your team, but also throughout the company.

No one is perfect, but if you do slip up be sure to address and remedy it publicly. It will show your humility and dedication to creating a better work environment for everyone.