Workplace incivility can be likened to a slow poison, gradually eroding the foundation of a healthy work environment. It manifests in various forms, from disrespectful communication and undermining behaviours to exclusion and intimidation. Left unaddressed, incivility can escalate, leading to a decrease in morale, productivity and overall employee well-being. However, there is an antidote to this toxicity: a proactive commitment to fostering workplace civility.
Before delving into the antidote, it’s crucial to grasp the nuances of workplace incivility. This term encompasses a range of disrespectful behaviours, both overt and subtle, that creates a toxic atmosphere. Examples include rude comments, dismissive gestures, gossip and the failure to acknowledge or appreciate colleagues’ contributions. Recognising these behaviours is the first step towards building a more civil workplace.
Impact of workplace incivility
The consequences of workplace incivility are far reaching. Employee engagement declines, job satisfaction diminishes and turnover rates rise. The negative effects extend beyond individual well-being, affecting team dynamics and the overall organisational culture. Productivity may suffer as employees become disengaged or distracted by the hostile work environment.
Samir Bhiwapurkar, head of HR and general administration, Japfa Comfeed, insists that generally it is the HR that takes the lead in clearly communicating the organisational culture. This involves emphasising fundamental practices such as the importance of timely attendance in meetings and fulfilling deadlines. He also adds that managers play a critical role as mentors, providing guidance to employees, addressing any challenges that may arise, and facilitating discussions, particularly in conflicting situations.
“To ensure ongoing improvement and alignment with organisational norms, there is a systematic feedback mechanism in place. This involves soliciting input from cross-functional teams, enabling a comprehensive understanding of an employee’s performance and potential areas for growth”
Samir Bhiwapurkar, head of HR and general administration, Japfa Comfeed
He suggests, “To ensure ongoing improvement and alignment with organisational norms, there is a systematic feedback mechanism in place. This involves soliciting input from cross-functional teams, enabling a comprehensive understanding of an employee’s performance and potential areas for growth.”
Need for a comprehensive & proactive approach
Fostering workplace civility requires a comprehensive approach, starting with a leadership commitment to establish a culture of respect. Leaders must exemplify civil behaviour by communicating clear expectations for a respectful workplace and implementing policies with defined consequences for incivility. Education and training programmes play a crucial role in raising awareness about workplace civility and providing employees with conflict-resolution skills and effective communication tools.
Bhiwapurkar says that a proactive approach is needed to address specific shortcomings. Personalised training modules, accessible through platforms such as Learning Management Systems (LMS), are provided.
He states, “These modules are designed to enhance skills and focus on areas that need improvement. This comprehensive strategy not only makes employees aware of organisational expectations but also ensures they receive the necessary support and guidance throughout their journey within the company.”
Open communication channels should be encouraged, creating an environment where employees can express concerns without fear of retaliation and addressing misunderstandings promptly. Recognition programmes and a culture of appreciation further contribute to a positive workplace by celebrating positive behaviours and acknowledging colleagues’ contributions. Inclusive practices, promoting diversity and addressing biases help ensure that all employees feel valued and respected.
“Leadership, including top managers, plays a crucial role by exemplifying the desired behaviour consistently and ensuring that employees observe these principles in action. The organisation’s values and code of conduct should be integrated into daily routines, influencing everything from meetings to emails”
Sharad Sharma, CHRO, Pramerica Life
Sharad Sharma, CHRO, Pramerica Life, asserts that to create a workplace culture that discourages incivility, organisations should clearly communicate expectations, especially during onboarding, outlining the dos and don’ts.
“This message needs reinforcement in various forums. Leadership, including top managers, plays a crucial role by exemplifying the desired behaviour consistently and ensuring that employees observe these principles in action. The organisation’s values and code of conduct should be integrated into daily routines, influencing everything from meetings to emails,” opines Sharma.
He points out, “This daily reinforcement helps employees understand the accepted norms, making it more likely for positive behaviour to become ingrained in the organisational culture.
Zero-tolerance policies should be communicated clearly, swiftly addressing and resolving incidents to underscore the commitment to a respectful environment. Regular feedback mechanisms, such as established channels for employee input, enable continuous refinement and improvement of workplace civility initiatives. Together, these measures form a robust antidote to workplace incivility, fostering a healthy and respectful organisational culture.
Ramesh Shankar S, chief joy officer, Hrishti.com comments, “To address incivility in the workplace and ensure ethical behaviour, a key antidote involves establishing clear codes of ethics and values within the organisation. This starts with effective induction programmes that educate employees about the do’s and don’ts, emphasising the importance of ethical conduct.”
“Leadership and management play a crucial role in reinforcing these values by consistently promoting ethical behaviour through various training programmes. They should integrate these principles into daily practices, making them a part of the organisational culture”
Ramesh Shankar S, chief joy officer, Hrishti.com
He believes, “Leadership and management play a crucial role in reinforcing these values by consistently promoting ethical behaviour through various training programmes. They should integrate these principles into daily practices, making them a part of the organisational culture.”
Shankar further suggests periodic reminders and training sessions to help employees internalise these values, ensuring that ethical considerations become second nature. This approach is similar to the way families instil values in their members from an early age, creating a way of life that guides behaviour in various situations.
Organisations can prevent incivility by promoting a culture of respect and open communication. Leaders should set a good example by being respectful and clear about expectations. Establishing and enforcing policies against incivility, along with training programmes, helps employees handle conflicts better. Encouraging open communication channels lets employees share concerns without fear. Recognition programmes for positive behaviour and promoting diversity also contribute to a more respectful workplace. By prioritising these values, organisations can create a culture that discourages incivility and encourages a positive work environment.
Creating a civil workplace requires a multifaceted approach that involves leadership commitment, education, open communication and a culture of recognition and appreciation. By addressing workplace incivility head-on and implementing proactive measures, organisations can cultivate an environment where employees thrive, collaboration flourishes and productivity soars. The antidote to workplace toxicity is a commitment to fostering a culture of respect and civility, and the benefits extend far beyond the workplace, positively impacting individuals and the organisation as a whole.