Incivility in the Workplace

What It Is and Why You Need to Manage It In Your Organisation

Let’s start by asking ourselves a few questions:

  • IN EMAILS: when I receive messages which seem off-task and abrupt, do I respond in the same manner?
  • IN MEETINGS: do I work on my computer or smartphone and ignore my colleagues?
  • IN CONVERSATIONS: do I make condescending or demeaning comments in the workplace e.g. correcting/ reprimanding someone in public, share anecdotes about co-workers that cast a negative light on their abilities, performance or personality, make rude comments?
  • IN PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS: if I find someone difficult to work with, do I roll my eyes or give him/ her dirty looks on occasion, or give the silent treatment?
  • IN SHARED WORKSPACES: do I leave my dirty dishes/ utensils in the office kitchen sink or neglect to pick up after myself in shared spaces?

Feeling uncomfortable yet?

Workplace incivility is a prevalent issue and presents a unique challenge because it is ambiguous in nature. It is defined by Anderson and Pearson (1999) as “…low-intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms for mutual respect. Uncivil behaviors are characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others.” These behaviors are easily deflected – “I didn’t mean it”, “He had the wrong impression” or “She’s just oversensitive”.

By exploring these, we can gain insights into how we approach the issue of incivility in the workplace. Perhaps you have been on the receiving end of such uncivil behaviors. How did you react or respond?

Effects of Workplace Incivility

Those who are on the receiving end may cope in a variety of ways: avoiding or working around the person who is uncivil, engage in passive aggressive behaviors, and may engage in uncivil behaviors.

The accrued minor stresses of incivility may lead employees to miss work, lessen their loyalty to their organizations, lower their level of job satisfaction and prompt them to consider leaving their organizations. Even those who are onlookers can be negatively affected as well. There is a cost to organizations in lost productivity, increased conflict and absenteeism.

What Can We Do?

Although we cannot change others’ behaviors, following are four practical steps to help ourselves, our colleagues and organization create a more civil and respectful workplace:

  1. MODEL: the best way to communicate the importance of civility in the workplace is to intentionally model civility ourselves. Always treat people with respect, put that phone away during meetings, lower our voices in shared offices and remember our manners no matter how we feel about our colleagues;
  2. COLLABORATE: when working in teams or departments, work collaboratively with colleagues on rules for engagement, then hold each other accountable to keep those rules. Set the culture of civility that you all agree upon and stick to it, especially when under the pressure of deadlines or other stresses;
  3. STRATEGIZE: Seek strategies or interventions that will address gaps in individual and group interpersonal skills. For instance, develop conflict management or communication skills training programs, work with staff members whose behaviors challenge those around them and plan ahead to head off possible problems before they begin;
  4. CREATE THE CULTURE: On an organizational level, support the creation of a culture that encourages respect and civility. This can be developed in part by establishing policies and codes of conduct aimed specifically at encouraging respect and discouraging incivility.

Managing and curbing the rise of incivility requires comprehensive strategies and collaboration both at the individual and corporate levels. The development and maintenance of a positive and productive work environment is critical for both personal and organizational success.

Dr Jeannie Trudel is President of CHC-Christian Heritage College and has grown organisations for more than two decades.

CHC Researcher Receives Best Paper Award at World Symposium in Samoa

Dr Johannes Luetz, senior lecturer and post-graduate course co-ordinator in the School of Social Sciences and Chair of the Research Committee, showcased CHC at the “World Symposium on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Strategies in Coastal Communities” held in Apia, Samoa, 5-7 July, 2017.

With over 100 participants from 23 countries, the Symposium was a truly international and interdisciplinary event, mobilising scholars, social movements, practitioners and members of governmental agencies, undertaking research and/or executing climate change projects in coastal areas and working with coastal communities. Cooperating organisations included the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); the World Health Organisation (WHO); the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO); and the International Climate Change Information Programme (ICCIP).

Dr Luetz’s area of expertise is climate change and sustainability, specifically the ways environmental change impacts societal structures in poor communities, including human relationships and networks.  Global warming is predicted to result in not only sea level rises but also an increase in the intensity of extreme weather events. Worldwide, the political response to natural disasters is to provide economic assistance to deal with acute crises such as lack of housing, food, water and electricity. Whilst these are important considerations, less attention is paid to the lingering impact of these disasters on human life which may include temporary or permanent displacement, broken social networks, psychological trauma, educational disruption, lack of occupational opportunities and resultant poor living conditions and economic hardship. This is particularly the case in countries of the developing world, which struggle severely to deal with the overwhelming social impact of events such as flooding and cyclones. As a Social Scientist, Dr Luetz aims to use research to make the world a better, safer and fairer place for all, especially poor and marginalised communities.

Dr Luetz’s paper, co-authored with Tongan Ph.D. researcher P.H. Havea, “We’re not Refugees, We’ll Stay Here Until We Die!”—Climate Change Adaptation and Migration Experiences Gathered from the Tulun and Nissan Atolls of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, drew on pilot research conducted on the Carteret Islands of Bougainville/Papua New Guinea (PNG). Recognising that it is imperative that policy makers rethink adaptation responses to extreme weather events, the paper provides several recommendations in the areas of education, livelihood security and future governmental planning.

The research paper was exceptionally well received, winning 1st Prize in the category Best Paper Award, received jointly with the co-author from the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji. The paper has since been published by Springer, one of the top five scientific publishers as a chapter in “Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Strategies for Coastal Communities”.  This is a volume of the award-winning book series “Climate Change Management”, which since its creation in 2008 has become the world’s leading peer-reviewed book series on this topic.

Those interested in further information please contact Dr Luetz ( )

CHC Researcher boosts international profile

Karenne Hills, from CHC’s School of Social Sciences, continues to build an international profile in the area of disability theology research.

In August, Karenne spoke at The International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSIDD) World Congress, which attracted 1,600 delegates from around the world, and is one of the most prestigious conferences internationally in this discipline.  Presenter numbers are strictly limited and thus acceptance to speak is competitive and a great achievement in itself.  Karenne presented “Spirituality in the context of non-verbal autism”, based on her PhD research.

The following week Karenne spoke at the Exclusion and Embrace conference.  This is a multi-faith Australasian conference which focuses on the growing interest in faith and spirituality in the lives of people with disability.  Karenne was a steering member of the conference committee and as such has been working hard for the past two years in the planning and success of the three days of the conference.

Her presentation “Towards a model of inclusive practice in Christian higher educational institutions:  A prototype program” described a program currently in operation in the CHC School of Social Sciences.  The program is an innovative, individualised educational support program designed to assist students with a disability to succeed at tertiary study.  The program began in 2014 and to date has realized success far exceeding the school’s expectations.  It has also attracted international interest from other educational institutions, disability organisations, and leading disability scholars.

Karenne was also invited to participate in a panel discussion on day three of the program alongside Dr Samuel Kabue, (Executive Secretary of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network), Dr Bill Gaventa (Director of the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability and Director of the Collaborative on Faith and Disability), and fellow Australians Andy Calder and Louise Gosbell.  The panel discussed ideas and innovations for the inclusion of disability focused courses along with programs for people with disabilities in seminary and theological college curricula.

As a result of her presentations, CHC has been showcased to a large number of people representing a variety of organisations and Higher Educational Institutions from across the globe.  During both conferences she also had the advantage of networking and consolidating scholarly linkages with leading international disability scholars.

Sue Chapman wins Three Minute Thesis Challenge

Congratulations to CHC lecturer Sue Chapman, for winning the annual Three Minute Thesis Challenge at Griffith University.

Sue, who teaches drama in CHC’s School of Education, Humanities and Business, will now represent Griffith University in the Asia-Pacific Finals of the competition on 30 September, 2016.

Currently competing her PhD at Griffith University, Sue is passionate about incorporating the arts into school curricula and believes that the teaching of so-called ‘serious’ subjects such as Maths,  English and Science can be improved dramatically through creative approaches.

See the full story at: Arts immersion wins Three Minute Thesis

Climate Change – Research Update

Dr Johannes LuetzIn addition to chairing CHC’s first-ever Research Symposium in July, CHC’s Senior Lecturer Dr Johannes Luetz has achieved significant recent success with his own research activities.

As noted here previously, Johannes presented a paper at the Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation in the Pacific Region which was held in Fiji last month.  His paper “Climate change and migration in the Maldives:  Some lessons for policy makers” was well received and has subsequently been accepted for publication as a chapter in the book “Climate change adaptation in pacific countries:  Fostering resilience and improving the quality of life”.  This book forms a volume of the award-winning book series “Climate change management” published by Springer.

Following this, Johannes has been accepted to present a paper at the Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation in Asia to be held in India in February 2017.  His paper “Climate change and migration in Bangladesh:  Empirically derived lessons and opportunities for policy makers and practitioners” draws on field research conducted as part of his PhD.   Papers from the symposium will be published in a multi-volume publication “Guidebook on climate change adaptation in Asia:  Strengthening sustainable development and adaptation capabilities” which will form a volume of Springer’s “Climate change management” series.