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Bad behavior cannot only happen with our children but is prevalent everywhere in the adult world especially in the work place.  An article written by Diane Berenbaum who is senior vice president and co-owner of Communico Ltd.  talks about a “disturbing trend in Corporate America.”  She says that “there is a civility problem in the workplace and wrecking havoc on employee relationships, morale, as well as the bottom line and few business leaders are doing anything to stop it.”

Ms. Berenbaum quotes from the book, The Cost of Bad Behavior by Christine Pearson and Christine Porath, some astonishing data from their research study of 800 employers. Check this out:

96% have experienced incivility at work

48% of employees claim they were treated uncivilly at work at least once a week

10% said they witnessed incivility every day

Percentage of workers treated uncivilly who get even with their offenders:  94%

What is incivility?  Pearson and Porath define it as “the exchange of seemingly inconsequential, inconsiderate words and deeds that violate conventional norms or workplace conduct.”  And, of course, what is determined to be “uncivil” is based upon an individuals own perceptions. For example it may be displayed very visibly such as:

*losing one’s temper, raising the voice volume and yelling at someone in a public place.  i.e. in the hallway, at a meeting or even at lunch

*withholding information or back-stabbing a person

*sabotaging and undermining  a project or intentionally seeking to destroy a person’s reputation


Sometimes this “bad behavior” shows itself in subtle ways, like,


*not returning e-mail or text. Not returning phone calls or missing a meeting.

*holding secret meetings

*ignoring or interrupting a person especially in public

*no longer using the words “please” or “thank you.”


This uncivil behavior not only happens among co-workers but customers believe that disrespectful behavior is more common today than it was five years ago.  When was the last time you experienced rudeness from a “service worker” at a restaurant, department or grocery store or on the phone.  I remember hearing a marketing executive telling his sales force that the customer is always right and customer care was an absolute for creating more business.  So much for that!

So what does all this mean?  It means that people are being “mean” to people not just in the work force but in life.  It’s like there is a culture that doesn’t really care how you feel or think or what we call a “go to hell” attitude.  This is what incivility is–just plain rudeness.  Why should it even matter?  It matters because such unkindness or disrespect for another human being destroys not only another person (or seriously damages them) but also can destroy the organization.  When that happens stress and poor performance hurts the person(s) and the whole organization.

As a clergy for 33 years working in the church, I have witnessed firsthand how even religious people can shoot their on kind and crucify their leaders.  If people are doing that within the  church they are certainly doing the same thing in the community or wherever they go.

What can be done about it?  Here are a few things that  must be done.  Communicate or have discussions about the meaning of rudeness or uncivil behavior.  Educate people on what such behavior does, not only to a fellow human being, but the organization itself.  Organizations are always talking about their mission statement and the truth is that the mission statement doesn’t mean a thing if people are mean and cruel to one another.  If a mission statement is so important then make sure you teach your people about what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior. Create a written standard of behavior that seeks to build people up and what the consequences are for tearing them down.  Leaders should be the first to be involved in this process and for modeling civility and why it is so important.

What you are intentionally wanting and need to do is create a new culture that helps people become better people.  Better people equals better profits and a better organization.

I remember a good pastor friend telling me a couple of things that have always stayed with me.  He was referring to the institution of marriage but it is apropos to the culture of any institution.  First he said, “Jay you know how you fall in love?  You fall in love by saying nice things to each other.”  Secondly he said, “95% of life’s frustrations come from the tone of the voice.”

Life is about relationships and so are organizations.  If we just said nice things to one another and were aware of what we said and how we said it, it would change our lives and the culture around us.  Why be civil and intentionally seek to change our environments for the better?  Because our Creator made us to help and care for  one another and thus be all that we can be.  And, because it is simply the right thing to do–people matter!



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