Post photos of team-building activities at your workplace.

What Causes Workplace Incivility and How to Stop it

What Causes Workplace Incivility and How to Stop it

Workplace incivility is a common phenomenon that is prevalent in many workplaces and it is growing rapidly, especially in the recent years. Read this article to know what causes it.
Suganya Sukumar
Workplace incivility is defined by Andersson and Pearson as "low-intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms for mutual respect. Uncivil behavior is characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others." This type of incivility can be intentional or unintentional. There are a range of behavior that are exhibited by the people in a workplace, which can be called workplace incivility. It may even include purposefully ignoring to say 'hello' or 'accusing verbally' with an intent to hurt others' feelings. Donald Zauderer (director of American University's Key Executive Program) defines it as, "disrespectful behavior that undermines the dignity and self-esteem of employees and creates unnecessary suffering, indicating a lack of concern for the well-being of others and contrary to how individuals expect to be treated". This definition shows the emotional sufferings of such uncivil behavior, which are imposed on the victim.

Incivility in the Workplace

In a workplace, with people who are self-serving and having impolite manners, the problem of incivility is high. Such kind of people work with manipulative motives can cause severe irritation to their co-workers. Incivility is not always about being nice. For example, a boss may send a note saying, 'You better get along, otherwise I may have to pass a pink slip', to an employee who is performing below the required standards. In this case, the boss may have good intent to increase the efficiency of his employee. In a good workplace, anger can also be expressed by well-intentioned people who strive for the betterment of the company. This cannot be called workplace incivility. Workplace bullying is an intense form of workplace incivility.

  • Talking aloud and distracting others' concentration
  • Sending bad and demeaning notes through email or SMS
  • Accusing with bad words
  • Undermining one's work performance before everyone
  • Purposefully ignoring some employees in important meetings
  • Causing disruption during meetings
  • Not giving credit to the right employee due to personal issues
  • A person's temperament can make him/her both a victim as well as the culprit of incivility crime. People who have less ability to self-regulate, may lose their temper and can be more impulsive, due to which they may use verbal slurs and coercive actions.
  • Environmental factors such as less loyalty to the company, no trust among the employees, short-term profitability, salary conflicts, etc., can cause workplace incivility.
  • Informal culture in an office sometimes causes ambiguity about the limits in interpersonal interactions and causes its tolerance.
  • Dismissals, outsourcing of employees, working on contract basis, job hopping, etc., causes job insecurity among the employees, and consequently increases such acts.
  • The problem of incivility may also arise due to cultural and subcultural differences among the employees.
  • Poor health
  • Depression and low self-esteem
  • Low productivity in the company
  • Poor interpersonal relationships
  • No loyalty and commitment
Preventive Measures
  • Rationalize your thoughts.
  • Judge your attitude and follow the basic workplace etiquette.
  • Respect your colleagues and treat them the way in which you want to be treated.
  • Avoid spreading rumors about your co-workers.
  • Maintain workplace standards and be more professional.
  • Cooperate with your colleagues and work sincerely for the organization.
Duties of the Management
  • Hire gentle and well-mannered people.
  • Judge the employee's work without any bias and give appropriate incentives.
  • Include civility classes during the training section of the new employees.
  • Don't show any kind of partiality between the employees.
  • Pay variation is one big cause of this problem. Give pay hikes to the right candidate according to his/her work and don't act in a biased way, because you personally like or dislike a candidate.
  • Treat your employees with dignity and respect.
  • Don't ignore the ideas of the employees in improving the efficiency of the organization.
  • Don't increase the workload of the employees beyond a considerable level.
According to a survey conducted among Americans, its main contributors are leaders in the workplace (65%), employees (59%), economy (46%), competitiveness (44%), young employees (34%), Internet access (25%), denial of employee rights (24%) and senior employees (6%). The outcome of a survey commissioned by the US news and World Report, determined that 9 out of 10 Americans believe that it is a serious problem and 78% of the polling says that the incivility problem has worsened over the past decade.