What is the real cost of incivility in the workplace? What is incivility and what are the most common examples of incivility? Are there any methods to change toxic workplace? Read the article to find out how to address workplace incivility efficiently.

Incivility in the workplace – table of content:

  1. What is incivility in the workplace?
  2. The most common examples of incivility in the workplace
  3. The real cost of incivility
  4. Why it is so harmful to the company?
  5. What should be done to reduce incivility?
  6. Summary

What is incivility in the workplace?

Incivility is far more common than it should be and it seems to be on the rise. More and more employees report being treated badly or experiencing rudeness regularly. The behavior that counts as incivility (rudeness, unfairness) is not illegal, it is often hard to prove and difficult to be detected by HR managers. Being unnoticeable, incivility is very dangerous and destructive – it helps to increase turnover rate, decreases moral and causes stress for the employees.

Cases of incivility have tendency to grow into much bigger conflicts. Such conflicts, when they reach HR departments are not easy to investigate.

The most common examples of incivility in the workplace

The list of such examples is never full, but some of the behaviors have to be added to such list clearly. Let’s see, how else employees can show their good manners to each other. Some of the behaviors are more delicate and harder to spot, but still, they have an effect and cannot be omitted here.

Incivilit evident, clear examples:

  • giving silent treatment
  • talking about somebody behind his back
  • sending nasty, belittling notes
  • making humiliating remarks
  • showing lack of respect by: comments or gestures
  • making accusations related to professional competence
  • chastising publicly
  • showing bad temper
  • making emotional tirades
  • using racial epithets
  • making direct sexual advances
  • bullying

Incivility inconspicuous, delicate examples:

  • giving dirty look
  • not listening
  • ignoring somebody’s presence
  • interrupting others
  • ignoring somebody’s credit in collaborative work
  • asking for instruction and then ignoring it
  • speaking with arrogant tone
  • patronizing somebody
  • telling jokes that are based on stereotypes
  • invading space of the fellow employee
  • making disruptive noises

Some of the uncivil behaviors are possible because of the development of new technologies: texting during a presentation, writing offensive comments on social media, creating mocking movies – all this was not possible just several decades ago. Shared office equipment may become a weapon as well – jammed printers, switched off copiers, inactive applications. Employees have more and more ways to manifest their hostility.

incivility in the workplace

The real cost of incivility

The price of incivility is extremely high. The exact numbers can only be estimated. Companies, who tolerate bullying, unfairness and rudeness have to be ready to accept and pay for high turnover, decreased productivity, loss of talents, and rise in sick time. The overall cost for a 500 Fortune companies can reach almost 16 million US dollars per year.

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Why is it so harmful to the company?

Incivility is harmful not only for the employees but for the company as well. Employees who feel unhappy at their workplace show higher level of stress and as a result they get less work done. Even without detailed surveys it is obvious that employees who worry about bullying or other uncivil acts are more likely to: decrease their productivity, lower the quality of their work, stop cooperating and offering help, and cease sharing their ideas and solutions.

Generally, most of the employees know, what type of behavior is illegal hence they choose the activities they can get away with, but subtle types of incivility are equally damaging. The tense atmosphere in the workplace is not better from open conflict, because victims spend less and less time at work and try to avoid their offenders – invisible barriers between people create inefficiencies in work processes. The overall impact of such barriers is hard to assess.

incivility in the workplace

What should be done to reduce incivility?

Good managers tend to observe their employees and try to weed out those, who exhibit symptoms of detachment from work or their team mates. The very first step requires to have one-to-one talk with the employee. The case of incivility has to be spotted first.

But there are strategies that should be applied before any signs of trouble are visible. To keep the company civil the problem of the company culture has to be addressed first.

There are several specific strategies to address incivility in the workplace. Efficient managers should consider:

  • recruiting individuals that present good manners
  • frequent evaluation of staff performance
  • offer civility sessions
  • ask for feedback, provide feedback about performance
  • respect all your employees
  • define clearly acceptable conduct: provide guidelines, create handbooks with rules of conduct
  • ensure that all employees feel appreciated, safe and heard
incivility in the workplace


Incivility is not a rare problem and it occurs in many companies. It is not limited to just bosses and supervisors: fellow workers behave uncivilly equally frequently. Uncivil behavior may be encountered in any industry or place, where people work together and do business together, therefore civility have to become a part of the culture of the company.

It is not advisable to ignore incivility in the workplace since it can easily change into aggression, open conflict or violence over time. Companies need to have code of conduct set as well as right policies in place. Respect is one of the most important values that has to be followed by people in all situations, both private and business ones, therefore it should be encouraged without exceptions. Incivility the major challenge in current economic era, but it can be dealt with and it can be prevented.

Read also: A link between diversity management and equal employment opportunity in the workplace

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Author: Nicole Mankin

HR manager with an excellent ability to build a positive atmosphere and create a valuable environment for employees. She loves to see the potential of talented people and mobilize them to develop.