#Nextchat: Forget Flu Season. It’s the ‘Incivility Bug’ That’s Wiping Out Your Workforce!


Preview of this week’s #Nextchat with special guest Christine Porath

Almost all of us have experienced “that boss.” You know, the one who yells, belittles, bullies and publicly lambasts others under the guise that this “demanding” leadership style is simply his or her way of producing results. Many organizations may have historically condoned these toxic leaders, given their “get things done” capabilities. But we know now that uncivil employees, bosses or otherwise, are hurting more than feelings—they are hurting the company’s bottom line. Nevertheless, all signs seem to indicate that this “incivility bug” is spreading, even though it’s bad for business.

Rude behavior—at work or anywhere else, for that matter—is nothing new. What is concerning, however, is that it’s on the rise. Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and author of Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace (Grand Central Publishing, 2016), has spent much of her professional career studying the effects of uncivil behavior. According to Porath, “while one-quarter of the people surveyed in 1998 reported being treated rudely at work at least once a week, that figure rose to 55 percent in 2011 and 62 percent in 2016.” The question, then, is why?

The recent HR Magazine article “How to Create a Culture of Civility,” by senior writer/editor Dori Meinert, highlights the results of a survey Porath conducted to find out why employees behave uncivilly. More than half said they were overloaded at work and 40 percent claimed they had “no time to be nice.” About 25 percent reported being rude because their bosses acted that way.

The HR Magazine article also cites a Michigan State University study from August 2016, which reported that “people who are recipients of incivility at work feel mentally fatigued” and that “when employees are mentally fatigued, it is more difficult for them to keep their negative impulses and emotions in check.” Additionally, “being the victim of incivility leaves employees depleted because they must expend energy to understand why they were targeted and how to respond.” Nevertheless, despite these daunting trends, Porath believes we can inoculate ourselves from the effects of what she has labeled the “incivility bug.”

Porath shares the costs of incivility and how civility pays in her recent TED Talk, “Civility in the Workplace—Do Nice People Finish Last or Best?” In the talk, she explains how incivility is a bug—it’s contagious, and we become carriers of it just by being around it. Porath reveals the true power of civility and how even our little actions matter.

In this time of heightened tensions in the workplace, HR professionals have their hands full. They must contend with the ever-increasing instances of incivility in their organizations, many of which can lead to cases of harassment. Studies show people don’t leave jobs, they leave bad bosses and toxic cultures. Beyond the moral implications of promoting a civil workplace, there’s a clear business case for civility—and HR can make that business case. Performance, productivity and retention are all affected by the “incivility bug.” HR professionals can help turn the tide by creating policies and procedures for hiring, training and performance management that promote a culture of kindness, respect and diplomacy. 

How do you handle incivility in your workplace?

Please join @shrmnextchat at 3 p.m. ET on March 28 for #Nextchat with special guest Christine Porath (@PorathC). We'll chat about the rise of incivility and how organizations can encourage more conflict-free cultures. 


Q1. Why do you think incivility is growing in our workplaces? 

Q2. What examples of incivility have you witnessed or experienced in your workplace?

Q3. How does your HR department respond to reports or complaints of incivility in your workplace? Do you have a formal procedure?

Q4. As an employer/HR department, how do you distinguish between incivility and harassment? When does it cross the line?

Q5. How has technology (social media, email, etc.) helped alleviate or exacerbate the instances of incivility within the workplace? #nextchat

Q6. How do you coach/counsel employees who have displayed incivility in your workplace?

Q7. How do you train your organization’s people managers to deal with incivility in the workplace?

Q8. What steps can employers take to reduce instances of incivility and encourage a culture of respect and tolerance

Christine Porath will present the Master Series session Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace at the 2018 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition, Tuesday 06/19/2018 02:15 PM - 04:15 PM.


LISTEN to the #Nextchat podcast with Christine Porath here





The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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