Incivility could be defined as a lack of regard for one another. It’s not an objective phenomenon like a car accident that can be forensically measured. Oftentimes, the way it unfolds does not involve a lot of drama.
The offense may be intentional—or not. For example, it’d be possible for the offender to deny any negative intent (“you’re being too sensitive; I was only kidding!”)…. Individuals who commit a genuine gaffe will back down and apologize with sincerity. As a leader, don’t ever fall into the trap of believing non-verbal misbehaviors are harmless. They can in fact be far more damaging, especially when used against customers. Customers offended by nonverbal misbehaviors are less likely to complain, more likely to walk away.
Incivility involves acts of omission and commission. It can be hard to record inappropriateness of behaviors, and if the offender goes unchecked, it means no standards are established for correcting future behaviors. In fact, the damages wreaked by workplace rudeness are subtle, usually lasting, and costly at all levels—to individuals, workteams, and your bottom line. Managers typically don’t want to get involved with what they perceive to be petty conflicts. Some never hear about the problems while others actually permit and encourage it, which brings me to the next point.
Discourtesy can go viral very easily, especially when it’s top-down. It’s dangerous when it’s top-down because incivility thrives on inequality. It’s dangerous because habitual offenders may be blind to their effects, or protected by access to power. By their conduct, discourteous leaders give permission for a workplace culture of incivility. Picture a plant filled with hyper-aggressive sales people. These folks bring in new revenue for the business, the specialist elite. Unless management requires civility, it’s easy for a workplace culture so reverent of aggression to forget even star performers need “the folks in the back” to help pull off results that will delight customers and generate new income.