How uncivil behavior hurts your business

You wake up to find your boss has texted the team. It’s a `stinker’, as usual–harsh, cutting, bordering on the abusive. You want to sink back in bed. You are raging, yet dismayed, keenly aware of your own powerlessness. You shout at your playing child to shut up. You can’t focus on the newspaper; you are not mindful at breakfast. If you are getting on in years, you have probably popped a pill to calm your nerves.

All because someone was uncivil to you. We live in a rude age but nowhere has incivility spread more than at the workplace. Over two-thirds of the time, it flows from the top down.

This has consequences not just for the health of staff–stress, heart attacks, burnout, etc–but also the business. Employees who come to work starting are not going to do their best for the business. People will intentionally give less at work because they’ve experienced it (incivility). They take it out on the organization, even though the organisation often knows nothing about uncivil behavior.

It’s their latent anger at work, and it comes out on customers too. Over a quarter of people admit to taking it out on customers. What we’ve seen is that incivility is contagious. People become carriers of it. Even if you’re just working on it, it affects your mood. It gives you just a little bit more of an edge. We don’t realise that we take it out on people, whether it’s customers, other coworkers -we even take it home with us.

You are getting sub-optimal work, your customer’s sense hostility, and then your best workers start leaving. There’s been some really great research coming out of Harvard that has shown that one toxic worker is much more costly than two superstars. So, companies need to be very careful while hiring. If you select someone who is toxic, it’s not only going to probably affect their coworkers, it’s also going to infest the organisation.

How did the modern workplace become so toxic? Where did the pre-digital era niceties go? Technology is a big culprit in this. It’s much easier to have misunderstandings when you don’t have things like tone of voice or facial expressions to go on. Also, as we’ve gotten more global, people come to the workplace with different norms. You see a lot more challenges because of that.

Is there something that bosses can do to lessen the incivility in office? Don’t text your team, talk to them, “especially if it’s bad news or if it’s something stressful, or if it’s critical information; if it’s going to cause somebody to be upset or maybe be defensive, things like that.“

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