What Happened To Civility in The Workplace

April 25, 2023

Though this article’s content is incidental, I have spoken with employers about the workplace’s lack of civility. There is ample literature to support this perception. Employers say that incivility costs are escalating and reducing employee performance and creativity (Porath & Erez, 2007, 2009; Rafaeli et al., 2012) and retention (Lim, Cortina, & Magley, 2008; Porath & Pearson, 2012). In 2012 an estimated loss of $6 billion per year was due to workplace incivility. That number includes negative interactions between other employees and employers (Duffy, Scott, Shaw, Tepper, & Aquino, 2012).

Despite the understanding of incivility, costs associated with organizational well-being and individual gains have not increased. Behavior, regard for others in the workplace, and politeness (Andersson & Pearson, 1999) said in their study organizations and employees appear more dependent on positive norms, civil interactions (Andersson & Pearson, 1999). Nevertheless, research has raised skepticism about the potential individual benefits of civility. Instead, Andersson and Pearson (1999) said that being nice may increase friendships but being nice may not help or harm you in your career. Judge, Livingston, & Hurst (2012) believe there is a negative relationship between a person’s kindness and income. So, this principle is considered ambiguous because warm people are allegedly less competent (Cuddy, 2009), therefore likely to have negative career consequences. Research has shown that people who resist social rules and treat people disrespectfully garner more power (Pfeffer, 2013). Civil people are often perceived as fragile and overlooked or taken advantage of (Forni, 2002). Being kind, and considerate may be risky to one’s self-esteem, career, goal achievement, influence, and income (Forni, 2002; Judge et al., 2012). So, in consideration of this point of view, has civility lost its value in the workplace?

How can employers develop strategies to reduce incivility in the workplace? First, changing the culture is complex; everyone must be on board for the change. If incivility is the organization norm, leaders must consider best practices to change the culture. One size does not fit all. The solution should never be to construct incivility as a norm. Of course, politics should never be a part of seeking a civil workplace. Politics only drain the emotional health of employees and sets the organization up for eventual failure. Data that reflects turnover statistics can be the best tool to determine whether the workforce is healthy. According to (Porath 2016), leaders who understand civility as an effective strategy to promote civility in the workplace should demonstrate it front and center of making a positive change. A leader who can demonstrate kindness, encourage others to do the same.

Jacky Watson-Jolly


Winning Edge Network



Published on LinkedIn January 17, 2023

For more information about tools to use against incivility, contact https://civilworkplace.nih.gov


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1 Comment

  1. Weldon Jolly

    Thanks for your comment and support.


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