5 Ways To Avoid Incivility In Your Workplace
Australian workplaces face an often invisible yet increasing threat to productivity that, if not addressed and rectified, can compromise the psychological health of employees and the workplace. Incivility is an insidious threat that can lead to increased absenteeism, presenteeism, grievance claims, workplace conflict as well as increased workers’ compensation claims for psychological injury.
David Burroughs, managing director, CommuniCorp, said, “There is a difference between incivility and outright bullying in that people may not even realise they are being uncivil. Incivility can be categorised as a rude and discourteous behaviour that displays a lack of regard for others. It can include thoughtlessness such as not thanking someone for good work, or sending terse or blunt emails. These actions may seem trivial in isolation and are often not deliberate attempts to harm others but, when incivility becomes part of the workplace culture, people’s morale and the team climate can suffer significantly.”
The increasing ‘casualisation’ of the workforce has contributed to this and, often, uncivil behaviours are unknowingly modelled by managers. Poor role modelling in the workplace can directly increase counterproductive workplace behaviours. Additionally, with everyone being asked to do more with less, with technology blurring the boundaries between home and work, with instant mass communication mechanisms that are often devoid of niceties and or context, and the increasing general levels of stress that appear inherent within Australian workplaces, it is easy to see how levels of civility can be eroded.
“Organisations that neglect to address the risk factor caused by incivility may find themselves in breach of occupational health and safety legislation, since it is a foreseeable risk that can be managed.”
There are a number of ways organisations can reverse the trend of incivility, including:
- conducting workplace training to help all staff understand the impact of both positive and negative behaviours
- requiring managers to model desired behaviours and making them accountable for doing so
- setting a company standard for email communications, such as not sending time-sensitive information via email and avoiding terse language in emails
- reinforcing workplace values, codes of conduct and behavioural expectations as well as creating expectations around zero tolerance to uncivil behaviour
- being sensitive to cultural differences and expectations and ensuring all staff understand what is expected.
Some workplaces can develop an uncivil culture quickly and may require assistance to reverse it and mitigate the psychological health risks associated with such a toxic environment. Specialist workplace psychologists can provide insight and strategies for changing behaviour and developing the systems, policies and procedures that develop and support a psychologically safe and healthy workplace culture.
David Burroughs said, “It doesn’t seem like a big deal if people forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ but when this lack of manners continues it can lead to an environment where people feel undervalued and unimportant. This can undermine the sense of psychological safety within the workplace, normalise and perpetuate low level deviant behaviour and create the foundations for more problematic workplace psychological health issues to develop. This in turn can cause organisations to lose money due to unproductivity, time spent managing preventable grievances and workplace conflicts or even through workers’ compensation claims and premium increases.
“By contrast, a workplace that fosters good manners, citizenship and teamwork is much more likely to thrive and be successful.”
Business Chief Legend: Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek
Ask Singaporeans who Ho Ching is, and the majority will answer the ‘wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’. And that’s certainly true. However, she’s also the CEO of Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, and one of the world’s largest investment companies.
Well, she is until October 1, 2021, as she recently announced she would be retiring following 16 years as CEO of the investment giant.
Since taking the reins in 2004, two years after joining Temasek as Executive Director, Ho has gradually transformed what was an investment firm wholly owned by Singapore’s Government into an active investor worldwide, splashing out on sectors like life sciences and tech, expanding its physical footprint with 11 offices worldwide (from London to Mumbai to San Francisco) and delivering growth of US$120 billion between 2010-2020.
Described by Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng as having taken “bold steps to open new pathways in finding the character of the organisations”, Ho is credited with building Temasek’s international portfolio, with China recently surpassing Singapore for the first time.
As global a footprint as Ho may have however, she has her feet firmly planted on Singapore soil and is committed to this tiny city-state where she was not only educated (excluding a year at Stanford) but has remained throughout her long and illustrious career – first as an engineer at the Ministry of Defence in 1976, where she met her husband, and most notably as CEO of Singapore Technologies, where she spent a decade, and where she is credited with repositioning and growing the group into the largest listed defence engineering company in Asia.
It’s little wonder Ho has featured on Forbes’ annual World’s Most Powerful Women list for the past 16 years, in 2007 as the third most powerful woman in business outside the US, and in 2020 at #30 worldwide.
But it’s not all business. Ho has a strong track record in Singapore public service, serving as chairman of the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research and as deputy chairman of the Economic Development Board; and is a committed philanthropist with a focus on learning difficulties and healthcare.
As the pandemic kicked off, she not only led active investments in technology and life sciences, with German COVID-19 vaccine developer BioNTech among the most recent additions to Temasek’s portfolio, but through the Temasek Foundation – the firm’s philanthropic arm which supports vulnerable groups close to Ho’s heart, handed out hand sanitiser and face masks.
So, you would be forgiven for thinking that at age 68, Ho might simply relax. But in March 2021, just as she announced her retirement from Temasek, Ho joined the Board of Directors of Wellcome Leap, a US-based non-profit organisation that’s dedicated to accelerating innovations in global health. Not ready to put her firmly grounded feet up yet it seems.