Stopping incivility in the workplace

‘CREW’ process helps firms establish culture of respect
By Michael Leiter
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/14/2011

Somewhere today in a Canadian workplace: someone is talking loudly in the hallway, oblivious to her disruption of the concentration of others; someone is making a joke without registering it is based on a cultural stereotype that deeply offends a colleague; or a senior staff member is making a cutting remark about a trainee’s competence, embarrassing him in front of colleagues and clients.

These encounters are not civil and, while they may seem minor, over time they destroy morale and create disastrous effects on individuals and the bottom line of organizations. The perpetrators are not necessarily heartless psychopaths or power-mad bullies — they are ordinary people, more clueless than evil.

At the heart of incivility is ambiguous intent — not even the perpetrator can pin down the motive behind her behaviour. While anyone has the capacity to be rude, chronic incivility within a workgroup does not bode well. Incivility is expensive. People withdraw from unpleasant social encounters by quitting, calling in sick more often or reducing their engagement with work. Rude behaviour prompts grievances and formal complaints that consume time, energy and money, while producing no benefits for clients.