HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development, Talent

Understanding the Costs of Incivility in the Workplace

It’s not wise to ignore rude behavior in the workplace—and not just from a moral standpoint either. Workplace incivility also costs organizations money—and a lot of it.


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Incivility in the workplace is typically defined as deviant workplace behavior of low intensity that can include behaviors such as being rude, discourteous, impolite, or violating workplace norms of behavior.
Per research conducted by Christine Porath, an associate professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, over 60% of people she surveyed in the workplace reported being subjected to uncivil behavior at least once a month.
Here’s more information about how workplace incivility can impact an organization’s bottom line.

Employees are Less Productive

According to the Harvard Business Review report: The Price of Incivility, 48% of employees admitted to intentionally decreasing their work effort when they were subjected to workplace incivility, while 38% admitted to decreasing the quality of their work. Just imagine your boss telling you rudely that your work is “mediocre” and “pitiful” and that you’re “good for nothing” (using those exact words).
Would you really want to put your best foot forward and produce good work to make it look better to your superiors? Probably not. In fact, if you’re treated poorly enough, you might actively work to make it look terrible. And this, of course, doesn’t benefit anyone and certainly only costs the organization money.
In addition, 80% of employees subjected to uncivil treatment at work admitted to losing work time thinking about the incident of incivility to which they were subjected. And 63% admitted to losing work time because they were actively trying to avoid their offender.

Employee Retention Rates Decline

When employees are subjected to uncivil behavior on a regular basis, they don’t want to be at the organization or work environment where they experience such incivility. Of those employees surveyed, 47% claimed they decreased their time spent at work altogether, while 78% claimed that their overall commitment to their organization declined. And 12% even said they left their job due to uncivil treatment. Indeed, it does make sense that people won’t want to stay where they aren’t respected.

Customers Leave

Twenty-five percent of employees who claimed uncivil treatment acknowledged that they took their frustrations out on customers. So, incivility seems to have a real ripple effect. If an employee is treated rudely, don’t expect him or her to turn around and be kind and helpful to your customers.
Customers have also indicated that they are less likely to buy from an organization that they perceive as being rude to not only their customers but also their employees. They don’t want to engage with organizations that treat others with incivility regardless of who they are.
Overall, incivility in the workplace will cost you your employees and your customers. And without them, there really isn’t much left.

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