Incivility in the Workplace: Best Practices for Managers

Incivility can happen in the workplace, but it’s preventable. It’s important to train your team how to spot incivility as it occurs and to encourage employees to act respectfully toward each other. Learn more about workplace incivility, review common examples of workplace incivility and discover ways to avoid it in the workplace. 


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What is workplace incivility?

Workplace incivility occurs when an employee is disrespectful or rude to others in the workplace. It’s usually less intense than workplace bullying, but has the possibility of turning into bullying if it’s not addressed by a manager. Common reasons why employees feel hesitant to report this behavior in the workplace include:

  • Fear that their manager may ignore or discipline them
  • Nervous that other team members may view them as a negative or complaining employee 
  • Unsure if what they’re witnessing is workplace incivility because they haven’t received training to properly identify it 


Examples of workplace incivility

As a manager, it’s crucial to know what workplace incivility looks like. This allows you to address and resolve issues before they escalate into bullying and possibly harm your employees. Here are common examples of incivility in the workplace: 

  • Acting temperamental and yelling at others 
  • Showing up late repeatedly to meetings 
  • Being disrespectful to other employees 
  • Blackmailing or talking behind other employee’s backs
  • Sabotaging someone’s project or assignment
  • Trying to ruin an employee’s reputation
  • Failing to pay attention during meetings
  • Refusing to respond to emails or calls or purposely responding late
  • Interrupting employees during meetings, presentations or conversations
  • Ignoring employees as they talk
  • Keeping important client or company information from an employee


Ways to avoid workplace incivility

By promoting a positive atmosphere, training your employees on proper prevention methods and establishing clear behavior guidelines for your team, your workplace will be civil and respectful. Here are ways to mitigate incivility in the workplace:  


Be positive and respectful toward employees 

Many employees follow the examples their leaders set for them, which is why it’s important to be respectful to everyone. Team members will see how positive and courteous you’re being, which encourages them to do the same. If you’re acting civil and kind to all employees, they’ll feel more comfortable in their workplace and will enjoy collaborating with each other. When a manager acts respectful in the workplace, they’re showing employees that this is the only behavior that’s tolerated and accepted. 


Don’t excuse employees for acting disrespectful 

Some managers may excuse and tolerate disrespectful employees if they deliver quality work and are impressive in their role. If an employee comes to you with incivility concerns about their coworker, tell them you understand and will fix it. As a leader, it’s your job to address an employee’s poor attitude and work with them to adjust and improve it. If the employee still refuses to act civil in the workplace, consider hiring a new team member with a more positive attitude.  

Related: How To Deal With Difficult Employees: Best Practices


Use conflict resolution to solve issues between employees

If employees are regularly disagreeing and putting each other down, meet with them to find ways to solve their issues with one another. Try taking conflict resolution training classes or consider hiring someone trained in these skills to help you effectively resolve the problems these employees are facing. This helps your employees better understand how to maturely and professionally resolve problems, which increases their civility in the workplace. 


Establish and communicate rules for employees to behave 

Setting clear rules and guidelines for how you’d like employees to act with each other makes it easier for them to follow and reference. Write down the standards for behavior you’d like them to follow and list what is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace. Schedule a meeting with your employees and clearly communicate these guidelines to them. Make civility a core value for your team to follow and regularly encourage employees to act respectful and courteous toward one another. 


Hire professional employees and train them to be respectful 

Managers have the ability to fill their team with respectful employees. As you grow your team, look for new hires that display positivity, kindness and teamwork skills. This helps you build a team of employees who encourage, motivate and collaborate with each other. This often leads to valuable performance results. As soon as you onboard your employees, provide training on how they should treat their other employees. Coordinate occasional meetings or workshops with your team to regularly train them on being respectful and courteous toward one another.


Pay close attention to the actions of your employees

As a manager, it’s important to stay present and aware of how employees interact with each other. Try to spend time working closely with your team, rather than sitting in your office for extended portions of the day. This helps you realize how your employees act and it lets them know you’re paying attention.  


Listen to the concerns of your employees

Develop a safe and open environment for your employees to confidently approach you with any concerns or issues they’re facing. This helps them feel more relaxed and comfortable reporting any incivility they experience with other employees. Promote constructive feedback among your employees to show them the proper way to act around each other when it comes to listening and providing positive and constructive input to their team members. 


Train employees to speak up when they notice incivility in the workplace

Build awareness for what workplace incivility is and common signs to look for. Many employees may not notice when incivility is occurring and some may not even realize they’re being uncivil in the workplace. Hold training sessions to educate employees and teach them what to do when it happens at work. Provide clear definitions and examples to accurately explain what it is. Increasing your employees’ awareness helps you and other employees stop it once it occurs and allows you to prevent it from happening again.

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