The Cost of Incivility

Alex Pollock

The world of college football recently reminded us of the impact an individual’s behavior can have on the health and culture of an entire organization.
In their book, “The Cost of Bad Behavior,” authors Christine Pearson and Christine Porath highlight how destructive a particular type of bad behavior, “incivility,” is to American business. As many as 48 percent of employees experience incivility at work at least once per week, the authors say, arguing that the problem is more than just a minor inconvenience: it’s a “largely preventable ill that begs to be addressed.” Employees who experience incivility intentionally lowered their productivity, cut back work hours, lost respect for their bosses, put in minimal acceptable effort and sometimes even left their jobs- all because of disrespectful words and deeds, according to the authors. Workplace incivility comes in many forms and includes:

  • Shutting someone out of a network or team
  • Setting others up to look bad
  • Spreading rumors about colleagues
  • Leaving snippy voice mail messages
  • Talking down to others
  • Taking credit for the work of others
  • Making demeaning or derogatory remarks
  • Being aloof
  • Belittling the work of others
  • Using emails to send personal information instead of spending face-to-face time
  • Failing to return messages

Civility takes time and effort. It’s not just about being “nice” but it’s about mutual respect. Some of the desired behaviors include:

  • Assume positive regard
  • Listen eagerly without interrupting
  • Seek out and integrate diverse perspectives when making a decision
  • Never act in a way that could be perceived as threatening or intolerant
  • Maintain objectivity when conflict arises
  • Be approachable to all people
  • “Serve” rather than waiting to be “served”

How is all of this making you feel? Not sure? What can you add from your experiences? Do you need to add more civility to your mix? Begin by asking those around you a few questions like:

  • Do I behave respectfully to all around me?
  • Do I treat those on whom I closely rely better than I treat others?
  • Do I keep control of my emotions regardless of the pressures I’m facing?
  • Do I take out my frustrations on those who have less “power” than me?

I’m humbled by the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not believe that you can possibly escape the reward of your action.”  Let’s make sure we’re excited about getting our reward.

About Alex Pollock

Alex Pollock has been studying leadership effectiveness for more than 30 years. A former leader in environment, health and safety, and public affairs at The Dow Chemical Co., he learned that we all have leadership roles to play. He enjoys discussing new ideas and sharing practical ways we can all become better leaders.

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  1. Jim-Bob Williams

    November 22, 2011

    A great post – as usual!

  2. Alex Pollock

    November 23, 2011

    Great hear from you Jim-Bob. Keep leading where you are. Happy Thanksgiving!!

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