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Incivility in the Workplace


Incivility in the Workplace

Within a two-day period, two separate clients called to schedule training sessions on Diversity, also called Incivility in the Workplace. Both reported they had recently experienced a nasty incident among co-workers at their respective offices, and they felt they needed to formally remind staff of basic civil, non-discriminatory conduct.

In the media, there have been a growing number of reports on incivility, rudeness, harassment, and ultimate violence in the workplace between and against co-workers and management. Some think the more casual office atmosphere in many organizations causes the increase in incivility.  ‘Casual Fridays’ and other less professional interactions such as excessive sarcastic humor and intra-office emails, instead of face-to-face conversations, create venues for employees to behave less than professionally. Quite often, the sarcasm is taken too far and verges on blatant harassment.

When I go to client sites, I see signs posted in the kitchens, hallways, and restrooms, which are nothing more than reminders of basic skills my mother taught me as a child.  There are signs asking employees:

  • Not to leave dirty dishes in the sink
  • Not to take the last cup of coffee without refilling the pot afterwards
  • Not to walk away from jammed equipment & expect someone else to fix it
  • Not to spit, brush your teeth, or dump coffee grounds in the water fountain
  • Not to walk away from an overflowing or jammed toilet.

All of the poor behaviors listed above gradually build frustrations in co-workers. This creates hostility among them, and negatively impacts morale and production. This then leads to negative and sarcastic comments. If the abusive and sarcastic joking isn't controlled immediately, there is potential for the organization to be slapped with a harassment or discrimination lawsuit.


  1. Become aware of incivility in your workplace
  2. Become aware of possible discriminatory or harassing behaviors in your workplace
  3. Immediately talk to the offenders and remind them that when they are in the workplace their offensive behaviors are not acceptable
  4. Take action against blatant offenders
  5. Immediately inform all staff of the standards of conduct expected of them
  6. And always remember: As the leader, You set the example!

Leaders, there's no excuse for incivility in the workplace. Period.


Copyright MMVIII - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – +1.717.597.8890
Liz and her team work with leaders to create focused plans for their organizations' future. Then they work with the leaders to ensure their plans are implemented effectively.

Liz Weber CMCLiz Weber, CMC CSP

Liz Weber coaches, consults, and trains leadership teams. She specializes in strategic and succession planning, and leadership development.

Liz is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold both the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designations.

Contact Liz’s office at +1.717.597.8890 for more info on how Liz can help you, or click here to have Liz’s office contact you.

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6 thoughts on “Incivility in the Workplace”

  1. Heather Park says:

    Enjoyed this article Thanks And so true!

  2. Alan Kay says:

    Incivility is common in so many workplaces. It is a reflection of the leadership of the organization. A colleague of mine works in an organization where there's not only uncivil acts all the time, there's blatant insubordination (been a while since I used that word!). It's scary, because the organization has very clearly articulated values. Worse, their board likely knows about the issues, but doesn't address them, probably because they dismiss it as politics.

    The source of the behaviour is the lack of a strategic plan and under-skilled mid-level managers. If they had an outcomes based strategy (vs. programs) they'd be working on improving the skills of the managers, etc. Acts of incivility and insubordination would start to fade. It's a leadership issue.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Thanks Alan. I think incivility is more basic than a lack of a strategic plan -- that's quite macro. At a more micro level, it's poor leadership. If employees (or management) are exhibiting the behaviors described above, it's the leadership team's immediate responsibility to address it. It's hard for employees to work on the mission to move towards the vision, when their work environment is "gross."

  3. Dr Amit Nagpal says:

    Incivility is like common sense (which is often lacking) yet rarely talked about. I fully agree with you Liz and yes leaders need a reminder on this. All human beings have some biases and beliefs in stereotypes which can be part of incivility (sometimes the intention may be of light-hearted joke though). Workplace is for work and anything which disturbs the smoothness of work flow should be avoided.
    If necessary let us share our stereotype jokes at office parties.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Hello Amit: I love the way you worded this: Workplace is for work and anything which disturbs the smoothness of work flow should be avoided.

      As leaders, it's our job to ensure that smoothness and not create tensions, frustrations, and other difficulties for our team members to work around. Thank you for taking the time to read & post. I hope you come back for more! L

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Posted by Liz Weber CMC on January 31, 2012 in Leadership Development and tagged , , , ,