No matter how casual your workplace becomes, civility never goes out of style. Being polite and courteous is vital in society and in the workplace for everyone to get along. You may disagree wholeheartedly with your cubicle-mate’s political ideas, for example, but you’ve got to remain polite to her or you just might break out in a fight. Civility in the workplace helps to maintain order, which leads to increased productivity and a more comfortable environment overall.
If employees don’t maintain order and a civil tongue in the workplace, no one is going to want to stick around for very long. Often, workplaces with a high turnover are that way because workers can’t get along with each other. Newcomers don’t want to stay where there’s constant tension and bickering among the staff. Uncivil environments also can lead to harassment in its many forms as well as misunderstandings and miscommunications that ultimately affect the business at hand.
Whether it’s arguing over who took the last cup of coffee without making another pot or fighting with a co-worker for taking the last package of sticky notes, uncivil behavior takes time away from the work you’re supposed to be doing. Supervisors have to act as playground monitors and break up fights and disagreements when employees don’t practice simple rules of consideration. Then there’s the production disturbance or breakdown in the workflow that follows loud arguing. Work stops as everyone watches -- or listens to -- the encounter, then it takes time for employees to settle back down and get back to the tasks at hand.
Teamwork is not only a trendy buzzword in the workplace, it’s the way important projects get done. When team members don’t say please or thank you, or don’t respect each other's opinions enough to stop texting and listen to a proposal, teams can’t operate effectively. When management doesn’t follow the rules of civility, it makes it difficult to get employees to follow directions. Things like disciplining a worker in front of other employees, using foul language when you’re angry or firing a worker in the heat of the moment lead to a lack of respect that’s going to affect management’s ability to communicate and get cooperation from the staff.
Eventually, all that uncivil behavior is going to lead to some employees getting sick because of all the stress it causes. Stress leads to a range of conditions from depression and anxiety to stomachaches and high blood pressure. Then you have the employees who would rather use up their sick days calling in than face a hostile environment. Health premiums may go up and additional calls are made to HR or the employee assistance program as workers call to complain about their feelings of dissatisfaction at work, which all can end up costing the business time, money and valuable employees.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."