Incivility in the Workplace

Posted by on Sep 1, 2009 in Success!Ezine For You



E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Original Copyright © 2009

Another negative consequence of the recession? Yep, an increase in interpersonal rudeness and disagreeability at work. People are taking their stress out on office mates as they feel strained personally and professionally from the effects of the economy. Workplace incivility can be as simple as neglecting basic courtesies, such as smiling when you encounter someone, saying “please” and “thank you”, or failing to acknowledge a team members’ contribution to the success of a project. It also may appear as neglect of customer service and collegial protocol, such as failing to return phone calls or to pull your weight to meet team deadlines. Occurring more often are discourtesies such as taking people’s food from the workplace refrigerator without asking first, or leaving a swallow of coffee in the break room pot to avoid having to make more for others. At its worst is workplace backstabbing, bullying, and violence as conniving competitiveness and anger management controls derail. Psychologically healthy workplaces know that incivility cannot go unchecked, so take steps to eliminate it.

  • Establish a Zero Tolerance Policy

As an emotionally intelligent leader, you must communicate the message loud and clear that incivility will not be tolerated. The procedure for reporting and dealing with infractions should be specified. Discourteousness costs your bottom line by contributing to customer dissatisfaction and employee turnover. But, more importantly, your clients and staff deserve to feel valued and appreciated. Employees who are rude or who disregard expected standards of behavior must be swiftly coached, counseled, reprimanded or terminated.

  • Be the Chief Role Model

Senior executives are powerful modelers of exemplary workplace etiquette and set the tone for how everyone else should conduct themselves. Their display of impeccable decorum and courtesy towards employees and customers uplifts everyone and results in great feelings of workplace pride and satisfaction. By contrast, dysfunctional behavior sets a negative tone, sanctions incivility, and contributes to the occurrence of workplace violence. It is always crystal clear that staff who curse, berate, or throw things at others have observed this behavior in the upper echelons of the organization or have reason to believe that doing so will be tolerated. Similarly, employees who are victims of incivility feel more demoralized and disenchanted with the job when the offending behavior is displayed by a superior — though discourtesy by peers and subordinates destroys morale and productivity too.

  • Provide Training

Enlightened leaders don’t leave the prevention or eradication of incivility to chance. They provide training. They make sure that their “no tolerance” policies are communicated uniformly and company-wide and that strategies for overcoming damage from past violations are taught. Incivility is much less likely to occur when employees use effective stress management and anger management coping skills. But, unfortunately, many people have not developed adequate skills through their own home training or personal development efforts, so employers often find themselves having to strengthen these skills if they wish to maximize employee performance, productivity and well-being at work.

Workplace incivility is increasing as employees experience stress, anger and resentment in their lives. They are being asked to do more with less at work, while simultaneously having less to enjoy in their personal lives because of sustained economic worries, pressures, and constraints. Your staff deserve to be treated with respect and must be protected from attitudes and behaviors that wear them down. Take steps to improve the courteousness of your workplace today!


About the Author:

Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,

The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers
To contact Dr. Webster visit online at or call 954.797.9766.

E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262  Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317

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