MNC Consulting Group Newsletter
October 2019
Incivility and Productivity

If you think that how your employees interact or feel about their jobs does not impact your organization's productivity, think again. Your employees' behaviours, singly or compounded, directly affect your organization's efficiency and productivity. How can it not?
 
The term "Counterproductive Work Behaviour" or CWB is a term used by psychologists to classify behaviour that inhibits company growth. There are several examples of CWB including poor attendance, aggressiveness (passive or direct), poor performance, slacking during work hours, and not working with the team. Let me give you an example of how an employee who does not work with the team impacts the work of the entire team.
 
Meet George. George feels under-appreciated. He continuously points out how much work he does in the organization, yet from a managerial perspective, it is hard to quantify George's claims. "Workplace incivility" includes behaviours that involve upsetting coworkers or causing disturbances that affect workplace productivity. Workers like George are unsatisfied employees (perhaps stemming from an unsatisfied life, in general) and they shy away from involvement. They take every opportunity to remove themselves from engaging with others unless they are the ones in the spotlight. These types of employees have no desire to fit into the organization, and their behaviour causes others to be less productive or operate at a lower level of intensity. Someone who is not committed to the team or does not work well with others cannot be trusted to maintain or increase productivity.
 
How does an employer deal with workers like George? First, a one-on-one discussion is required to address George's behavioural issues at work. Tracking his performance to note improvements is important. Second, counselling is also highly recommended. If improvement is slow or does not show up at all, George's employment with the company should be terminated. The fact is that employees demonstrating workplace incivility are generally unable to be rehabilitated within the organization.
Spinning Out-of-Control
 
Studies have shown that workplace incivility may be low in intensity, but it is quite high in frequency. Organizations that permit workplace incivility to go unchecked are often unaware of the true costs of doing so. Workplace incivility leads to lower job satisfaction, increases psychological stress and results in lower discretionary effort (Treen, Y. (2017). Workplace incivility. NZ Business + Management, 31(4). pp. 24-26).
 
In one study, people who only witnessed poor behaviour performed 20 percent worse on word puzzles than others who were not witnesses. Another study found that customers recoil from businesses if they witness poor manager or employee behaviour. Another study by Porath & Pearson (2013) reported that of 800 manager and employees across 17 industries who experienced 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.
 
Not only is incivility related to these negative effects on employees and organizations, but it can also spiral out of control. That is, when someone perceives incivility from another individual in the workplace, they may retaliate with an uncivil act of their own (i.e., you were rude to me, I'm going to be rude to you!), creating a spiral of incivility
 
Incivility can be subtle, and it may not be easy to identify. However, if a formal complaint is made, organizations should follow due process and investigate the situation. After a conclusive investigation, leaders may find themselves between a rock and a hard place knowing what action they can take, particularly where incivility is a feature of the workplace rather than a problem with an employee. That is why it is so important for leaders to set the tone of civility and respect in the workplace from the start and always model appropriate behaviour.

In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)
Sometimes individuals may be overly driven and direct in style - traits that might make them valued performers on tasks but not relationships. These individuals are valued members of the team - they may just have some emotional intelligence deficits that could easily be remedied with coaching. These overly driven and direct individuals are not the problem in the workplace. It's those employees who are, for example, passive aggressive and lack self-esteem that are the real disrupters to a productive work environment. Some diehards will say that all behaviour is able to be changed. Sure, I believe that behaviour can be changed, but only to a degree. No matter how one may appear 'changed' on the surface, that passive aggressive co-worker will always retain his passive aggressive behaviour at times. There's a direct link between behaviour (what we do) and personality (who we are), so changing one must impact the other. Your personality is pretty much set by the time you're in first grade. Changing after that point is nothing but an uphill climb. As a leader, you need to ask yourself how much effort do you really want to invest in changing the behaviour of an employee's incivility in the workplace? Termination is an easier solution and will provide more immediate results. IMHO.
 
"You will never reach higher ground if you are always pushing others down."
- Jeffrey Benjamin 

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