Rudeness at work is rampant, and it’s on the rise. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Christine Porath and Christine Pearson write, “Over the past 14 years we’ve polled thousands of workers about how they’re treated on the job, and 98% have reported experiencing uncivil behavior. In 2011 half said they were treated rudely at least once a week—up from a quarter in 1998.”
“The costs chip away at the bottom line. Nearly everybody who experiences workplace incivility responds in a negative way, in some cases overtly retaliating. Employees are less creative when they feel disrespected, and many get fed up and leave. About half deliberately decrease their effort or lower the quality of their work. And incivility damages customer relationships. Our research shows that people are less likely to buy from a company with an employee they perceive as rude, whether the rudeness is directed at them or at other employees. Witnessing just a single unpleasant interaction leads customers to generalize about other employees, the organization, and even the brand.”
The Costs of Incivility
Many managers would say that incivility is wrong, but not all recognize that it has tangible costs. Among workers who’ve been on the receiving end of incivility:
48% intentionally decreased their work effort.
47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work.
38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work.
80% lost work time worrying about the incident.
63% lost work time avoiding the offender.
66% said that their performance declined.
78% said that their commitment to the organization declined.
12% said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment.
25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers.
Here are some examples of what can happen in an incivil work environment.
“In an experiment we conducted with Amir Erez, a professor of management at the University of Florida, participants who were treated rudely by other subjects were 30% less creative than others in the study. They produced 25% fewer ideas, and the ones they did come up with were less original.”
Performance and team spirit deteriorate.
“Survey results and interviews indicate that simply witnessing incivility has negative consequences. In one experiment we conducted, people who’d observed poor behavior performed 20% worse on word puzzles than other people did. We also found that witnesses to incivility were less likely than others to help out, even when the person they’d be helping had no apparent connection to the uncivil person: Only 25% of the subjects who’d witnessed incivility volunteered to help, whereas 51% of those who hadn’t witnessed it did.”
“People are less likely to buy from a company with an employee they perceive as rude, even if the rudeness isn’t directed at them.”