Bad manners are bad for business

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RUDE AND undermining co-workers, managers or leaders can negatively impact employee engagement and productivity, recent research has revealed.

“Our research found that victims of bad manners or incivility are less engaged at work, less committed to their organisation, not as prepared to go the extra mile and more likely to resign,” said Barbara Griffin, an organisational psychologist with the University of Western Sydney and study co-author.

Such behaviour was widespread across workplaces in Australia and New Zealand, as one in five people said they experienced bad manners in the workplace at least once a month.

Not to be confused with bullies, rude and undermining colleagues are those who question others’ judgement, exclude others from situations, interrupt others when speaking, make derogatory comments, withhold information or belittle others’ ideas, Griffin said.

The sample of 54,000 employees from 179 organisations across Australiaand New Zealand, reported a higher frequency of bad behaviour from their co-workers, but when their manager or a senior leader was the instigator the negative effect on engagement was even stronger.

Essentially, the onus of promoting good manners within the workplace rested with senior management. “It’s important to send a clear message that people are valued and that bad manners violate the workplace norms for respect,”Griffin said.

“Managers and leaders need to model respectful behaviour and reinforce positive actions. When employees perceive that they are being treated in a fair and just manner, they are less likely to treat others poorly.”

This includes tactics such as timely and professional handling of complaints, avoidance of excessive workloads and seeking and including employees’ input in key decisions.

Undertaken in conjunction with Hewitt Associates’ Best Employers study, the report showed incivility had a detrimental impact on people and that due to its widespread nature, had the potential to be very costly for organisations.

The study also asked HR departments to allocate a percentage value for best, consistent, inconsistent and poor performers within their organisations. Those organisations with a high incidence of reported incivility had a high percentage of poor and inconsistent performers.

“We know that this type of behaviour impacts people’s emotional wellbeing and physical health, but this is the first research to show that it affects the extent that they will promote their organisation and work hard to contribute to its success.

Tips for dealing with bad mannered co-workers

1. Do not reciprocate the behaviour. Reacting with similar actions can quickly spiral into increasingly aggressive behaviours.

2. If circumstances permit, set up a discussion with the person and tell them that you find their behaviour offensive.

3. Understand your organisation's policies and procedures. If the situation worsens, you can then report the offensive behaviour in an official manner.

4. If you are stressed and upset by the behaviours, talk to a psychologist or make use of confidential employee assistance programs.

Source: Barbara Griffin, organisational psychologist, University of Western Sydney