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Incivility in the Workplace and Psychological Effects on Employees

I recently read a report by Deloitte about the future of the organization that addresses the employee experience and human experience that makes several excellent points. I review these in today’s blogs and offer my own perspective on this important issue.

According to the report, a positive, motivating experience at work can be achieved by creating meaning and growth experiences at work. This can be accomplished through work/life balance, the nature of the work itself, giving people a sense of belonging, trust, and relationship, focus on job fit, and meaning – for all workers across the organization.

Deloitte refers to the overall effort as to enhance the “employee experience.” Issues such as productivity, well-being, overwork, and burnout have grown in importance and need to be addressed. The survey found that only 49 percent of respondents believed that their organizations’ workers were satisfied with their job design. Only 42 percent thought that workers were satisfied or very satisfied with day-to-day work practices, only 38 percent said that they were satisfied or very satisfied with work-related tools and technology, and only 38 percent thought that they have enough autonomy to make good decisions.

Beyond individual job requirements to the overall work environment, only 53 percent felt their organizations were effective or very effective creating meaningful work, and only 45 percent thought that they were effective or very effective delivering supportive management. Fifty-nine percent thought that their organizations were effective or very effective at creating a positive work environment, but only 43 percent thought that they were effective or very effective at providing the right opportunities for growth. Finally, only 46 percent rated their organizations effective or very effective in terms of workers’ trust in leadership.

The study concludes that to improve the internal environment and enhance workers’ experiences, change must come from the individual (bottom-up), starting with the employee’s preexisting tendencies to enable them to do their best work in a way that works for them. This includes attention to psychological needs as well as the work experience itself. Meaning at work

That got me thinking. What is the purpose of attending to the psychological needs of workers? It is to create an environment where employees can grow, build self-esteem, and achieve self-fulfillment from work. One factor that makes it more difficult to reach these goals is incivility.

Research on incivility in the workplace has found that mental and physical health, productivity, employee retention, customer relations, and so on all greatly suffer when work and social environments are uncivil and that uncivil behavior tends to spread throughout an organization if the behavior goes uncorrected. These behaviors can include sarcasm, disparaging remarks, and hostility that violates workplace norms of collegiality—the cooperative relationship of colleagues. The negative effects on one’s physiological and psychological health may make it more difficult to gain meaning from one’s work and satisfy higher-level needs such as self-actualization.

My suggestion is for organizations to examine things like social networking among employees including making harmful comments about another employee, critical comments about one’s employer posted online, and even cyberbullying. It seems the Deloitte study dismissed these issues, focusing instead on traditional work-related issues not those that have grown in importance over the years due to the explosion of social media use at work. These are most likely to create increased challenges to good employee experiences in the future.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on May 2, 2019. Visit Steve’s website and sign up for his newsletter. Follow him on Facebook and “Like” his page.