My first encounter with workplace incivility was very early in my working life. I had just returned from my study and had a job as a marketing executive. Just a few months after being in that position, the big boss out of nowhere screamed her head off while uttering the F word towards me. It shocked and numbed me. Well, to cut the story short, it turned out to be a manoeuvring strategy (read: office politics) between my immediate supervisor and her. As usual (in hindsight) there should always be a sacrificial lamb available and that was yours truly. It was my first and only cultural shock, and I got it in my own supposedly conservative country as compared to the place I had studied.
Off course, now the F word is so common wherever you go and in a certain environment, it is fast becoming a linking verb or copula. As of 10 years ago, we still considered it rude and obnoxious. Now, even school children are using it and definitely in many institutions of higher learning.
Uttering a swearing word is just one of the many incidences of incivility in a workplace. For certain, incivility is a bad thing in the workplace or in a matter of fact anywhere. Now, ask yourselves whether you ever been in these following situations:-
- As you were talking to your colleague, there was a call and your colleague picked up the phone without giving an excuse and left you stupefy.
- You were discussing with your supervisor and another colleague barged in your conversation.
- In a meeting, there were people who continuously tapped their phones.
If you have not gone through or observed any of the above, either you have been at the top of the echelon the moment you started working (an entrepreneur or given the reign on a silver plate by your parents or you are the one who is doing it) or you are the lucky ones who are working in a very few places left on the planet that still values civility.
One thing need to be cleared regarding incivility is that it happens when someone FELT that they are being disrespected, and not necessarily only involve an actual action of rude behaviours. It is so damaging to our emotion that it can influence our performance and thus productivity. The opposite of this, that is when we felt that we are being treated in a civilised manner, is greater enjoyment, greater focus, higher engagement and meaning at the workplace.
Back to the story when the verbal assault took place during my first job. I was young and naïve then. Now, if similar things were to happen, perhaps I would react differently and will hit back with my own salvos of uncivilised words and be angry about it…probably. But then the rational mind would also ward off the uncivilised response by assessing the fallout of such responses. It will raise my stress level and set up a contagion effect of bad-manners and everyone will catch the “illness“.