Sticks and Stones…

When coworkers treat each other badly, it’s not just morale that can suffer – so, too, can the company’s bottom line. That’s the conclusion of a recent study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School on the effects of incivility at work.

The study surveyed 775 people across a variety of industries and company sizes who were targets of incivility on the job. Examples of uncivil behaviour included sending a nasty and demeaning note, making accusations about a lack of knowledge, undermining credibility in front of others and shouting at someone.

Respondents described their reactions to such incidents in the chart below. Only one-fourth were satisfied with the way their organization handled the situation, suggesting that leaders need to make some changes.

“Be aware there is a high cost to workplace incivility,” says Christine Pearson, professor of management at UNC and author of the study. Many instances of uncivil behaviour go unreported, she adds.

“In IT, especially, there is a tendency to look the other way if the instigator is especially valuable on the technical end,” Pearson notes. But it’s in leaders’ best interests to listen to employees who report such problems and to take action. Particularly in IT, where demand for workers so greatly exceeds the supply, Pearson warns that those affected can easily get fed up and find another job.

When Incivility Strikes

For 775 people surveyed who were targets of rudeness at work, the result was more than just hurt feelings:

• 28 per cent lost work time avoiding the instigator

• 53 per cent lost work time worrying about the incident or future interactions

• 37 per cent believed their commitment to the organization declined

• 22 per cent decreased their effort at work

• 10 per cent decreased the amount of time they spent at work

• 46 per cent contemplated changing jobs to avoid the instigator

• 12 per cent actually changed jobs to avoid the instigator

Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill