Positive steps to creating a civilized workplace-Part Two

The impact: Building a case for a civilized workplace


In my last post, I described my experience in an uncivil work environment and the toll it took on me and the team. This series is largely about workplace incivility. However, incivility can happen at home, with family, friends, in the community, anywhere-the same issues and solutions apply.

Incivility is contagious

Incivility is so costly. It robs cognitive resources, hijacks performance and creativity, and sidelines people from their work. Incivility impairs thinking. People miss information right in front of them.

Christine Porath

What does the research say about the uncivil workplace?

I bet you won’t be surprised by the findings if you have experienced this type of workplace.  I share this series because I feel that it is important that senior decision makers understand how it affects their staff, bottom line, customers and, why it is so important to deal with the problem immediately

  • Turnover: Turnover costs can add up to almost twice an employee’s annual salary especially in the case of high-level employees.
    • How?  Other employees will leave an organization faster and more frequently if they must deal with a toxic employee.  Also, toxic employees can turn a  good employee into a toxic one.
  • Financial impact: When a multinational company learned about Porath’s findings and did their own calculations, they found that incivility was costing their company $12 million a year.  
    • A 2015 study published by Harvard Business School found that a superstar (top 1% of employees) will save the average company $5,303. Not hiring a toxic employee (a worker that engages in behavior harmful to an organization, including either its property or people) will save the average company $12,489. That figure doesn’t include “savings from sidestepping litigation, regulatory penalties, or decreased productivity as a result of poor morale.”
  • Reputation: Customer relationships will suffer if toxic behaviour is allowed.  A University of Southern California study found that consumers are less likely to buy  from a company they see as uncivil.
    • If a consumer witnesses a negative interaction between employees, they may generalize about other employees, the organization, and even the brand. Twenty five percent of employees who experienced uncivil behavior, admitted to taking their frustrations out on customers.
  • Employees lose: Employees who fall victim to incivility often end up with lower self-esteem, higher stress, and decreased job satisfaction.
  • Peer indifference: When people witness incivility, their performance and creativity suffer, and they are three times less likely to help the peer who experienced the incivility.
  • Collaboration: When people feel disrespected; engagement, teamwork, knowledge sharing, innovation, and contributions decrease. Incivility destroys helpfulness and collaboration. When employees are exposed to rudeness, their willingness to collaborate drops by more than half.
  • Outside the workplace: Incivility is contagious.  That means if you catch it from your home, family, friends or in the community you take it with you wherever you go and you can pass it on to others.

What the numbers show

According to some statistics from a Civility in America: A Nationwide Survey:

  • 75% say incivility in America has risen to crisis levels
  • 56% expect civility to worsen over the next few years
  • 53% have stopped buying from a company because of uncivil representatives
  • 25% have experienced cyberbullying or incivility online, up nearly 3x from 2011 
  • 34% have experienced incivility at work
  • 87% (Americans) who work in uncivil environments report that incivility has negative job consequences:
    • 55% Experience poor morale
    • 45% Want to quit
    • 40% Are less collaborative
    • 38% Have increased anger toward coworkers or employers
    • 36% Have reduced quality of work 
    • 32% Feel the negative impact on personal time away from work
    • 26% Are less creative
    • 23% Call in sick

Making civility a priority

After leaving this toxic work environment, the next place I worked at made a respectful workplace a priority. This management team placed a priority on making it safe, civilized, productive and fun. Incivility was not tolerated and if a manager or staff member was inappropriate or uncivilized, the matter was immediately addressed. I couldn’t believe the difference; it was like night and day:

I felt safe,

I no longer dreaded Sunday evenings (Monday morning was approaching),

I no longer tensed up when I received an email from my boss and ,

So many other things that I forgot were a part of a safe workplace.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about my experience in the toxic work environment, was that both senior management and human resources ignored the problem.  They saw this manager as charming, outgoing, and someone who did not act uncivilized in their presence or in a group.  Senior management and human resources ignored evidence presented to them, and didn’t look at indicators such as sick days, turnover, employee engagement results, and reputation to guide and assist in their response to this issue.

Final thoughts

I feel lucky to have found such a great place to work after the toxic experience. I know that frame of mind is important in finding a new job. If you are carrying your baggage to a job interview, it will come across and work against you. You may find yourself in a vicious cycle of leaving one toxic workplace to end up in another.

Senior management determines whether uncivilized behaviour is a problem or not. The problem and the solution start at the top. The most senior person of an organization sets the tone for the entire organization. He or she sets the vision, the mission, the principles, and standards for the organization that filters down. If uncivilized behaviour is exhibited and tolerated at senior levels, and there are no repercussions, you will have the makings of an uncivilized and toxic workplace. If it isn’t addressed immediately, you will have the makings of a toxic workplace. Do the right thing, do the hard thing.

Any thoughts?

Part three of this series will look at coping strategies…stay tuned!

Published by Diane Allen

Hi there, my name is Diane and welcome to my blog site! Leadership mindset is the mindset that embraces, vision, courage and action.

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