D Murali

Damage caused by bad bosses, rude colleagues

D. Murali | Updated on December 11, 2011


Sample these startling statistics, cited in The Cost of Bad Behavior: How incivility is damaging your business and what to do about it by Christine Pearson and Christine Porath ( >www.landmarkonthenet.com): 95 per cent of the US workforce report experiences of incivility from co-workers, and the everyday slights and disrespect cause stress that result in costs of $300 billion a year; workers under the yoke of bosses who are ‘inconsiderate, opaque, uncommunicative and poor advocates’ are about 60 per cent more likely to suffer from a life-threatening cardiac condition; and, in contrast, employees whose managers exhibit robust leadership skills are roughly 40 per cent less likely to suffer from coronary events.

Workplace incivility comes in many forms, as the book lists. Examples include: taking credit for others’ efforts, passing blame, checking email or texting messages during a meeting, sending bad news through email to avoid facing the recipient, talking down to others, not listening, spreading rumours, setting others up for failure, not saying ‘please’ or ‘thank you,’ belittling others’ efforts, forwarding others’ email to make them look bad, making demeaning or derogatory remarks to someone, withholding information, failing to respond to email or return phone calls, leaving a mess for others to clean up, consistently grabbing easy tasks while leaving difficult ones for others, shutting someone out of a network or team, paying little attention or showing little interest in others’ opinions, taking resources that someone else needs, and throwing temper tantrums.

Startling results

The authors put dollar value to the various effects of incivility, by drawing on the experience of companies such as Cisco, where the managers included intangibles like legal exposure, turnover and recruitment losses. Also, by polling a large, diverse sample of managers and employees in the US, the authors hit upon such startling results as the following: 48 per cent intentionally decreasing work effort, 47 per cent intentionally decreasing time at work, 38 per cent intentionally decreasing work quality, 80 per cent losing work time worrying about the incident, 63 per cent losing time avoiding the offender, 66 per cent reporting that their performances declined, and 78 per cent saying that their commitment to the organisation declined.

Importantly, the authors state that the negative impact does not stop with individual emotions; the contagion effects can also inhibit a team’s thinking and behaviours. “In fact the more team members care about one another, the more incivility from without can impede the team’s performance. Even after the initial emotional impact of rudeness has dissipated, teams often lose time and focus while members attempt to support the teammate who was treated poorly.”

A chapter on what leaders should do underlines that things are unlikely to change until the senior executives recognise that condoning incivility – even from ‘stars’ – is costing the organisation dearly. Of great instructional value in the book is the example of celebrity restaurateur Danny Meyer who knows the damage that incivility can do, and he would fire talent for it. “Rude but gifted chefs don’t last at his eleven restaurants because they set off bad vibes. In fact, Meyer is convinced that customers can actually taste employee incivility, even when it’s taking place back in the kitchen.”

Suggested study, especially when nursing the wounds of incivility.


Published on December 11, 2011

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