Workplace Incivility

Blog 100

“Speak politely to an enraged dragon” (J.R.R Tolkien) are golden words that might get you further than you realize. We often refer to manners as social etiquette. In essence, manners teach you how to become a social creature (or person if you prefer) and behave in a way that is not perceived disturbing or offensive to others. One of the most important social arenas requiring constant social interaction with others is the workplace, and most of us spend up to 2/3 of our time at work. This means more time than we spend with family and friends. Having manners at the workplace is more important than you think. Bad manners – forming part of workplace incivility – are bad for business and several studies indicate how bad mannered employees affect productivity and success of the business overall creating unnecessary stress on other employees.


Workplace incivility can take the shape of false rumors, insulting comments, rude and discourteous behavior or generally just bad manners. Manners are often about simple things that we are taught from childhood but amazingly many lack the most simple social skills and without realizing it contribute to negatively affecting the work environment. That you don’t like all your colleagues is common, but then it becomes even more important to be able to communicate and relate to one another in a polite way. Standard phrases you might perceive empty such as ‘please’, ‘pleasure’, ‘how do you do’ and similar does contribute to set standard for polite behavior, whether you mean it or not.

Many workplaces are multigenerational and/or multiethnic. This places further challenges on employees what concerns manners but also understanding and codes of what is perceived acceptable behavior within other cultures. Failing to get familiar with social codes of colleagues from other cultures mean you don’t perceive them important, you lack respect. ‘Show respect and you gain respect’ yes, but what if you are met with the opposite? Many workplaces fail to establish an environment where conflicts that very well can be caused by employees lacking manners or where workplace incivility is common, are addressed.

Good manners would teach you respect, and having respect (for others) means not entering into incivility. Yet, many do this mistake – they gossip and backstab and obstruct what could otherwise be a healthy work environment. Bad manners can also be a product of unintentional actions. While you are busy doing your job, you might forget to pay due and polite consideration to your colleagues also having a heavy work-burden. Suppose you have a disagreement with a colleague about a moral issue. This is an example where manners can help you to have a civilized discussion without this creating a conflict. Most of us spend the majority of our time at the workplace and obviously need to relate to colleagues whether we want to or not. Being polite can get you far and most of all will it contribute to a work environment benefiting the company, your colleagues and yourself.



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