Incivility: another manifestation of individualism?

If we are to believe Donald Black (The Social Structure of Right and Wrong, 1993), the expression of discontent in the working world evolves. Employees abandon public mass events (strikes, petitions or sabotage) in favour of more private reactions, specifically incivility in the workplace. How is it manifested? What are the internal reactions? How are incivilities to be handled to maintain a good working atmosphere in the organization?


The various faces of incivility
For some time now, your office colleague has had a abnormal attitude to you. First of all, he seems to have forgotten the five magic words he learned as a child (hello, please, thank you, excuse me, goodbye). His lack of respect, politeness and courtesy is beginning to weigh on you. In addition, he doesn’t hesitate to start rumours about you, to make sudden gestures, raise his voice, criticize you in front of the whole team or, at times, to simply ignore you. Not only is he rude, but he also lacks consideration and attention for your place. The consequences are unexpected: you adopt his uncivil behaviour, you start to doubt yourself, and soon, no longer having satisfaction from going to the office, you lose your motivation and may even want to quit your job. Moreover, Generation Y doesn’t waste much time seeking another job if the atmosphere deteriorates because of a disrespectful or harassing colleague.


Consequences, reactions and solutions
Too often, managers are slow to respond to these problems of incivility. Yet they also suffer the consequences: increased absenteeism and sick leave, time lost to deal with conflicts, jobs undone due to disastrous communication between colleagues. In short, knock on your manager’s door and refuse his possible reaction of denial or trivialization of the problem. As for your colleagues, some will distance themselves from a person they consider fragile or unstable. Know how to educate everyone (from the employee to management) to find solutions, since everyone is involved and must do their part: the employee should learn to recognize that his colleague with a taciturn character is making an effort to smile; the manager should begin by talking less sharply to his employees so they don’t adopt his behaviour. Solutions are very variable and fortunately so, since companies don’t all have the time or means to deal with incivility in their environment. In some cases, a frank and open discussion will do the trick; in other cases, the manager will decide to set up a social club to promote links, recognition meetings to highlight good actions, a charter of good conduct which is intended for all (regardless of seniority and function) or training sessions on civil behaviour, communication and conflict resolution, basic social skills…


Doesn’t incivility in business make you think of another type of harassment? So don’t think that things will be passed over with time. They stay with you, and the consequences, as you may expect, can be devastating professionally and personally. Just browse the Weinstein affair to dare proclaiming long and loud about inappropriate behaviour before they take you away…



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