Last week, Mike Rice, Rutgers University men’s head basketball coach was fired after videotape of his verbal and physical abuse toward his players went viral. The video is a series of incidents showing Rice repeatedly yelling, cursing at his players and aggressively grabbing and pushing them, and throwing basketballs at them.
As if watching this display of outright bullying behavior wasn’t painful enough, later that week Sean Hannity from Fox news referred to the incident in laudatory terms; in effect condoning the action and saying we need more of this kind of disciplinary behavior and character building.
His comments awakened me to the reality that, while Rice’s particular egregious display of bullying is more the exception than the rule in today’s workplace – abusive, disrespectful and uncivil behavior is occurring all the time and at higher rates in organizations of all different sizes and industries.
While dictionary definitions of civility refer to manners, tact and politeness as the essentials of civility, the root of the word stems from the idea of “good citizenship” and the “state of being civilized.” Whether we call it respect or civility or etiquette, it’s really how people as citizens think about treating each other in a society.
A 2011 article by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines workplace incivility as “seemingly inconsequential, inconsiderate words and deeds that violate conventional workplace conduct.”
Trevor Cairney, writing for the Center for Apologetic Scholarship and Education, says that “civility refers to the behavior between members of society that create a social code and is a foundational principle of a civilized society.”
Jim Taylor, a psychologist at the University of San Francisco, writing in the Huffington Post, suggests “Civility is about something far more important than how people comport themselves with others. Rather, civility is an expression of a fundamental understanding and respect for the laws, rules, and norms (written and implicit) that guide its citizens in understanding what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. For a society to function, people must be willing to accept those structures. Though still in the distance, the loss of civility is a step toward anarchy, where anything goes; you can say or do anything, regardless of the consequences.”
The articles I read on leadership spend a lot of time and space on the traits, characteristics and methodologies of successful leaders. That’s important, but these articles are not exposing the day-to-day nitty-gritty of office life – long, stressful hours filled with people who did not choose to work together – but in many cases must depend upon each other for work to be successful. Continue reading