What is incivility and why is it important to know about in the workplace? An HR system, Insperity, defines incivility as: “eye-rolling, interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting, making dismissive comments, or speaking disrespectfully while not saying anything that could cause legal action,” and “incivility is just as insidious and disruptive to productivity as more extreme behaviors. In fact, it’s been described as the “gateway drug” to workplace harassment or creation of a hostile work environment which makes incivility worthy of every leader’s attention.”

Examples of Incivility

  • Rudeness to another employee
  • Refusal to acknowledge employee(s) 
  • Subtle harassment (when management doesn’t acknowledge or know it is happening) 
  • Sarcastic comments
  • Eye rolling when someone is talking
  • Explosive outbursts at work 
  • Harsh criticism toward a specific employee
  • Bullying in person or on social media

What To Do About It

Depending on your stance in the company and if you are the one being a victim to incivility, there are different things to be done. As a boss, it is important to not comment on the situation until you gather all of the information. Since this is more subtle and can rely heavily on hearsay, as a professional person, you should refrain from making any comments until you know the entire story. Interview multiple people, check out your security cameras, and if it applies, look into the social media accounts of your staff.

The issue about incivility is that it is a ticking time bomb to cause bigger issues within your company and can cause a huge lawsuit if not taken seriously. This is something that is also still being researched every day and is not included in a lot of employee conduct books. In fact, bullying in the workplace is not technically illegal and is still being worked on to be illegal to hold people accountable for their actions. Create a positive workplace to steer away from the negativity and work with the employees one-on-one and go from there. If you feel like you are being a victim to incivility, reach out to your Human Resources department.