While preparing to write this article, I Googled “rude behavior” and “25 Rudest Rude Behaviors — Are You an Offender?” was the first piece listed. According to the author, rude behavior includes things like inappropriate use of cell phones, interrupting others, cutting people off in traffic and that type of thing.
The first comment posted after the article said this: “This whole post is so petty and trivial. There are actually bad things that happen that are much more worthy of your complaints and fretting upon than when people are unintentionally rude. Funny enough, you sound like a completely stuck-up, entitled snob, like the people you’re pointing fingers at. Get a life, c---.”
Alrighty, then. Granted, the person who wrote that is undoubtedly a lives-with-his-mother basement-dwelling troll, unfortunately, comments like that are not uncommon in our society today.
If it seems to you like civil behavior has gone the way of rotary phones and eight-track tapes, you’re not alone. According to the recent survey “Civility in America VII: The State of Civility,” 75 percent of Americans think incivility has reached “crisis levels.”
You don’t need to watch the news, listen to the radio or get on social media to be subjected to incivility — just go to work.
“Workplace incivility is rampant and on the rise,” according to Christine Porath, an associate professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and author of “Mastering Civility.” A survey she conducted in 1998 revealed that nearly half of the respondents said they were treated rudely at least once a month. That number rose to 55 percent in 2011 and 62 percent in 2016.
I can hardly wait to see the 2017 numbers.
Being uncivil means being rude and here’s a personal example of what it looks like.
While conducting a workshop for a client recently, two employees came in late, sat in the back of the room and spent the entire time they were there talking and laughing with each other while texting. Their supervisor sat by them (he also came in late) and did nothing about their behavior.
Perhaps he didn’t think they were being rude, but I did and, according to my research, most people in our society would agree with me. Arriving late, having side conversations and texting during meetings shows up on just about every “examples of rude behavior” list on Google.
Is rude behavior so bad? According to University of Florida professor D. Amir Erez, it is. A series of studies he conducted demonstrated that being subjected to rude behavior impacts our brain’s ability to function, specifically being able to be creative, help others and solve problems.
I can attest to that. I felt so disrespected by the talking/laughing/texting training participants that I could hardly persevere through the workshop. My brain was shutting down and I wanted to shut down with it.
Civility and professionalism go hand in hand. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to think that when people become employed, they know how to behave professionally.
If you want your employees to mind their manners so you can get the best performance from everyone, this is how you encourage them to do so:
1. Set clear expectations about their behavior. Don’t assume that people have common sense or will naturally behave the way you want them to. Tell employees about the specific behavior that’s expected of them at work, such as “No side conversations or texting during meetings.”
2. Provide training and individual coaching for employees who need some additional help.
3. Model appropriate behavior. If you’re going to tell people to act professionally, you have to do it too.
4. Hold people accountable, which means don’t let employees get away with behaving badly. Disciplinary action usually inspires people to behave better.
Getting employees to conduct themselves in a civil manner requires that you tell them, teach them and show them how, then ensure they follow suit. People don’t necessarily act professionally just because they have a profession.
Robin Paggi is a training and development specialist with Worklogic HR.