1. Workplace Civility- Introduction

Workplace Civility has been defined as a set of politics that are practiced in workplaces to prevent any employee from exhibiting deviant behaviors with an intent to harm someone. Uncivil behaviors are characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others. In this tutorial, we will explain such situations from spiraling out of control.

▪ Audience

This tutorial is designed primarily for those professionals who have been promoted to a managerial position in a target-oriented job. This tutorial aims at teaching them the differences between being an achiever and an abuser.

▪ Prerequisites

Before proceeding with this tutorial, you are expected to have a calm mindset and be open to exploring the suggestions mentioned here.

2. Incivility at workplace

Such employees decide to weather out the stormy employment scenario so that they can quit the company when the time is right, however many of these don’t manage to see the bright side of this picture and deviate into destructive behavior. Instead of quitting or retailing, they strike out against their employees by engaging in action that are detrimental to the organizations. This negative driving force is results in uncivil behavior.
When these employees are denied their due in the eyes of the management, they tend to think that management owes them which leads to such abusing of office supplies. Because employees operate and utilize the majority of a company’s asset, they tend to direct their frustration and anger by abusing the company resources, using office equipment, even stealing them. They start reporting late, slacking in work, leaving early and delivering low quality output. This happen because their sense of commitment and obligation towards their employer is destroyed. When that line is breached, employees simply stop caring about the employer.
Worse still is the fact that these employees will gain approval from other equally-mistreated employees, snowballing the unproductivity and slackness even further into a huge loss for the company. Such behaviors are called acting out. This is the stage where people want to forget the cause of their unhappiness by talking part in destructive actions that they think justifies their ill-treatment. Many employees who act out of anger cite not getting enough respect as the main reason behind their uncivil behaviors, closely followed by not getting enough recognition.
While these two are the top reasons for minor offenses, they are not the reason behind severe offenses. It is also found that while employees become less productive when they are not satisfied with their work or the work environment, the deviant behavior is not universal. Many organizations produce a sustained supply of quality output even if employees complain of longer hours, lesser pay and erratic schedules.

3. Causes of workplace Incivility

A case could be made that it’s fair to the supervisors and managers to paint all of their sub-ordinates and associates under them in a negative light, as all of them don’t have the same managerial style and approach to work. Indeed, our very first premise began by wondering are not so common where there are millions of employees getting reprimanded, terminated and influenced every day.
There’s no questioning the talent and team-managing skills that are employed by many efficient managers and supervisors all over the world, however, there are certain situations when even the most seasoned and adept managers are found at the end of their tether. Such situations are often caused when managers are often caused when managers are spurred on to achieve unrealistic targets within pressing deadlines.
Such expectations force the managers to apply relentless pressure on their teams to extract the best performance out of them. While this might give positive results at times, but expecting a team to meet stiff targets every day is unrealistic and when a team does bad, it results in a kick the cat situation
where the managers won’t be able to vent their frustration on anyone other than the helpless subordinates, and the unwelcome actions they conduct on that particular day forms the basics of incivility. After having a discussion with HR heads and disgruntled ex-employees, researchers identified the five major areas which were behind the uncivil behavior of most employees-
Pay-Cuts- It was found that making frequent pay-cuts was one of the biggest reasons many employees resorted to uncivil behavior.
Part-time Employees- Employing part-time employees when there already is a full-time staff made the existing full-time employees uncertain about their job and career prospectus, leading them toward uncivil behavior.
Freezing Payments- Freezing payments of staff and making budget-cutting makes the workplace extremely unfavorable for an employee.
Changing Managers- Employees get used to the managerial styles of their supervisors and become productive over a period of time. Making sudden managerial changes significantly decrease the levels of employee’s engagement.

In addition to these administrative reasons, improper working environments like unhygienic workplace, high temperature, and poor ventilation also influence uncivil behavior.

4. Types of Workplace Incivility

Different people have different levels of tolerance for mistreatment and ill-behavior at the hands of their employees or supervisors. Depending on these levels, they may exhibit different types of uncivil behavior.
Experts have studied these various levels of incivility. Let’s discuss them-

  • Verbal-passive indirect No interest in clarifying any false.

  • Verbal-passive-direct – Silent treatment of co-workers, not answering calls or replying to emails. Avoiding contact.

  • Verbal-active-indirect – Propagating lies and rumors about co-workers and belting other ideas

  • Verbal-active-direct – Insulting people, giving condescending replies and yelling at coworkers.

  • Physical-passive indirect – Influencing others to stop co-operating with specific people in the workplace.

  • Physical-passive-direct – Typing to be in groups with larger number of people, to camouflage underperformance.

  • Physical-active indirect – Stealing office resources, destroying property, abusing equipment,

    funds, misappropriation.

  • Physical-active -direct – Physically attacking people, verbally assaulting, sending cold nonverbal messages.

It has also been observed that the ones who exhibit the level of uncivil behavior do not stay at the level, but plunge to the next level of increased passivity at work. A verbal-passive-indirect will have the tendency to quickly move down to the verbal-passive-direct stage, if proper counselling and intervention is not done at the right time.
Efficient managers always keep a look out of employees who are exhibiting the first symptoms of dissociation from work and have a frank one-to-one discussion with them, so that the employees can once again connect to the workplace and align himself with the work-flow.

5. Workplace Civility-Worksheet

Suggesting a person to smile back when a co-worker smile at him, or to return someone’s greeting, may airy manners, however such an attitude could end up with that person paying a heavy price for in it the long run. It is these small gestures that sums up an individual’s perception in the public and an image is built accordingly.
The following activity will help you identify the levels of civility your practice in office. Recall a time when you had a garner a lot of respect from co-workers, superior and/or subordinate.
Identify the reason you received this consideration and what rules of civility you practiced in this situation.

Based on your recollection, answer the following questions-
• What was the behavior of your co-worker like which made you feel that he was respecting you?
o How did your co-worker’s behavior towards you affect?
o Your performance at job
o Your interaction with co-workers
o Your self-esteem?
o Your self-confidence?
• On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 respecting model civil behavior, rate yourself in terms of your practice of civility at your workplace. Explain the rating you gave yourself.
• What do you think you are doing to ensure civility at your workplace? What do think you are the areas in which you still need to improve?
• What do you think your organization is doing to ensure civility at your workplace? What do you think are the areas in which your organization still needs to improve?

6. Workplace Civility-Importance

The word that frequently come to mind when one hears “civility” are respect, tolerance, politeness and courtesy. All these are qualities employees, because they understand that these qualities are essential to relate with others in a positive and productive manner.
A respectful person will be able to handle an opposition is an efficient and professional way. Similarly, a tolerant person will know how to rationally handle an unruly situation without losing his cool. However, there are times when uncivil behavior is mistaken for boorish behavior. Many a time, a person can be uncivil without his being aware of it. For example, someone who starts working for a  new company assuming that he will be subject to the same guidelines in the new company as he was in his previous one, will unintentionally invite friction with his co-workers.
At times, discussing work performance with someone might be mis-constructed as harsh criticism, especially if the tone of the voice is not modulated properly. A supervisor could easily argue in his defense that he has the senior designation and can share criticism whichever way he wants. However, in doing so, he ends up spoiling and killing future chances at career growth.

There are many other instances where a good-intentioned person could unknowingly create for himself the tag of an “uncivil employee”. Some of them are mentioned below. Let’s see how these simple actions are often misunderstood.
• Gossiping- Unless a news has been confirmed. Its uncivil to instigate the discussion of a topic simply based on rumors. This seemingly harmless action can inflict major psychological
damages on the target of this unsubstantiated gossips.
• Using Abusive Language- Even if the intention is good, using crude language or abusing someone verbally doesn’t serve any purpose whatsoever. The recipient won’t want to understand the reason of the tirade, but would rather take it personally. The abuser will also earn a bad name for himself as an ill-tempered guy.
• Ignoring People’s Presence and Greeting- This is another uncivil behavior in common practice. Even if one is the biggest person in the world, he would still find time to return someone’s greeting with the same comparison. Ignoring people’s greetings and walking past them without even a smile is extremely rude.
• Discounting Employee Contribution- Discounting employee contribution means not sharing proper credit with someone for his contribution, or not giving proper recognition to someone
efforts. Even if this happens unintentionally, someone’s emotions could get hurt when his hard work is not appreciated or credited to him.
• Sabotaging individual efforts- Trying to cut a way out of competition by not informing someone who is your competitor in promotion of the exact time of a client’s arrival.
• Discriminating against people- Harboring prejudice against an individual based on his race, gender, age, mental ability, and physical appearance.
• Not being sensitive to co-workers needs- Not being able to play attention to the feelings and needs of others e.g. not giving maternity leave to someone to justify optimum workplace
attendance.
• Engaging in distracting activities- Talking over the phone while a meeting is going on, clearing up the whiteboard after using it are all actions that don’t involve anyone but draw
criticism of everyone.
• Practicing poor communication- Ignoring phone calls and emails, disclosing contents of confidential emails to people outside organization.

7. Workplace Civility-Conflicts

When there is a conflict of interests in the workplace, you need to understand and prioritize your needs so that you can focus on them, rather losing your goals in the ensuring discussion between different parties. To solve problems that arise out of such conflicts, it is essential that you analyze the problem that arise out of such conflicts, it essential that you analyze the problem carefully, develop potential solutions, select a working solution from the list and check its practically. Many cases of workplace  incivilities arise out of the absence of a proper reporting authority whom the aggrieved person can report to.
In many cases, the conflict needs a creative approach to solve the problem. This creative approach requires that all the parties with differing with each other and put facts on the table. This meeting is often presided by experts who facilitate and moderate the conversation to ensure that all parties get an equal say in the matter. Depending on the responsibilities of the presiding authority, there are two kinds of facilitators Mediation and Arbitration.

▪ Mediation

Meditation is a method of conflict resolution where a mediator is asked to get both sides to sit together and have a constructive dialogue. In some cases, mediators also share their expert opinion. However, the option to take his opinion as the final word is completely left to the participating parties.
Mediation practices a collaborative style of finding a resolution and is very effective in ending disagreements. It helps to keep sensitive disputes in a company private, which might otherwise be
exposed in a court and damage a company’s reputation. Meditation also allows room for improvisational solutions whereas a court can only function according to the law. Meditation is
also relatively inexpensive compared to litigation.

▪ Arbitration

Arbitration, like mediation, is an inexpensive, speedier and more private from of dispute resolution, and also requires the presence of a third party to help the settle the conflict. Just as the third-party in the case of mediation is called the mediator, the third party in the case of arbitration is called the arbiter.
The main differences between mediators, who mainly facilitates dialogue and suggest solutions and arbiters is that, arbiters are needed to give their final and binding judgement on a case. For this reason, the arbiters are supposed to have expertise on law and company policy.

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