Have you ever had an employer, supervisor or professor who was rude, disrespectful, bossy, controlling or otherwise unpleasant to be around? Have you worked or lived with an uncivil family member or colleague? For almost everybody the answer is yes. I once joined a fitness club where the manager was controlling, impolite, and inclined to bark-out directions to the staff and sometimes to the club members. Before this person was fired, the organization became increasingly characterized by sliding employee morale, higher staff turnover and loss of the club’s members and customers. Perhaps this abrupt and insulting manner came from the manager’s insecurities but his sour attitudes were poisoning the whole atmosphere and slowly destroying the business.
That is a major world-wide problem according to research described in a Harvard Business Review article (January-February, 2013) titled “The Price of Incivility: Lack of Respect Hurts Morale—And the Bottom Line.” A poll of 800 American managers and employees in 17 industries found that when employees feel disrespected and bullied at work:
- 78% reported that their commitment to the organization declined.
- 48% decreased their work effort.
- 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work.
- 25% admitted taking out their frustrations on customers.
The magazine authors’ survey of 14,000 people in American and Canadian companies concluded that “incivility is expensive and that few leaders or organizations recognize or take actions to curtail it.” Lack of civility can pull down the quality of any organization. This applies beyond business to academic institutions, churches, relief and parachurch organizations or even to medical treatment facilities. One hospital requires “temperamental doctors to attend ‘charm school’ to decrease their brashness (and reduce the potential for lawsuits).”
How is incivility counteracted? Most of this is basic:
- Recognize and do something about rudeness and verbal bullying in your organization. Don’t ignore uncivil people and their actions.
- As a leader, model sensitivity, respect and kindness. Be open to feedback.
- Teach employees and new hires what it means to be civil. Make this an organizational priority.
- Help counseling and coaching clients recognize and reduce incivility in their own relationships.
Do you think this is important or “much ado about nothing?” What are your experiences with rudeness and incivility? Please comment.