Dealing with Incivility in the Workplace

Julie entered her new job at the ad agency excited. She had finally found a way into her desired career instead of working in jobs that were merely to make money. This is what she had paid thousands for a college degree to do—a marketing account executive. During the interview, she had overheard the boss at the small boutique ad agency deal with an employee for making a mistake in a way that was slightly harsh, but it sounded like a major mistake, and she was sure she wouldn’t make that type of mistake.

It wasn’t long until she realized how wrong she was. At the slightest mistake or even when Jane did something different that how her boss would have handled a task, civility went out the window, and soon her boss was cussing her publically and threatening to fire her and others on the team if the CEO’s wishes weren’t carried out to exact detail and employees didn’t possess 100% foresight in their ability to guess exactly how she, the almighty CEO, would have completed the task.

Jane quickly realized how beaten down her coworkers felt. For every step forward, there was a tirade that took the whole team backwards. The accounts director, the CEO’s son-in-law, was forever apologizing for the uncivil behavior at the top, but employees couldn’t help but feel undervalued. Morale was plummeting and turnover was high. Jane dreaded when the CEO was in the office, but fortunately she was often absent, leaving Jane and her team free to operate under the better leadership of the account director. But even then, the culture was toxic. Jane soon left the position to again take an “it pays the bills” job outside her field. She wasn’t in her dream career, but at least she wasn’t working in a nightmare scenario.

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common in today’s workplace. There is a growing incivility that is having detrimental affects on the workplace.

In a recent article by Georgetown Professor Christine Porath in McKinsey, she notes that in a survey, employees say they have been mistreated by a colleague at least once a month, and this stat has risen by 13% since 1998. Are we just getting soft or are offenses on the rise? Additional observational studies would say it is a combination of both.

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