The Heat is On! How Employers Can Extinguish Workplace Incivility

A recent study shows that employees feel workplace incivility is on the rise. What can business leaders do to stop the rudeness?

Posted by Joe Gerard in Human Resources on August 17th, 2011

Employees are under a lot of pressure, and it’s taking a toll on the workplace. The CBS News video below takes a look at the workplace stress associated with the current job climate – particularly the high levels of workplace incivility that employees have been experiencing. In the video, the reporters refer to the results of a recent study on workplace incivility, showing that 86% of workers experienced rude behavior this year, while 90% admitted to instigating it. As an employer, what can you do to extinguish rudeness in your workplace?

 Causes of Incivility

It’s not just new hires feeling the pressure, it also affects experienced and long-term employees. They have seen their friends lose jobs and are afraid that if they don’t do whatever they can to keep theirs, they’ll be next. Here are some other interesting tidbits I pulled from the CBS News clip:

  • When people are stressed, their manners tend to fall to the wayside.
  • [isight-ad]People have enough of their own stuff to worry about and aren’t going out of their way to do something good for someone else.
  • Employees vent their stress on coworkers rather than going to upper management because they are afraid of losing their jobs.
  • According to the workplace incivility study, 65% blame leadership for workplace incivility, 59% blame employees and 46% blame the economy.
  • Some employees feel they have to work very hard to keep their jobs. When they see others slacking off it upsets them, resulting in rude behavior.

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What Can You Do?

As an employer, you have to take charge in order to maintain a civil workplace. In the video, generational workplace expert Jason Dorsey, reminds us all that a company’s culture is a direct reflection of its leadership. Dorsey says that leaders need to step up and model the behavior that they expect from those within the organization. To create a healthy workplace, Dorsey offers the following 3 steps:

  1. Get clear on corporate culture: Have a conversation about professionalism and respect in the workplace.
  2. Bring diversity to the table: Different ages, different departments, different titles, and let them share their opinions to get buy in.
  3. Leaders must model behavior: Saying one thing and doing another will be noticed by your employees.

Another piece of advice I think should be added to the list is to take employee complaints seriously. Listening to employees is important because if you address their complaints they know you’re listening and you’re serious about maintaining a safe, friendly workplace. Put a reporting system in place and let employees know the various reporting methods. Make sure that complaints are addressed quickly – not months and years later – in order to get to the root of the problem before it blows up into something that could have been extinguished earlier.


Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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