disagree with grace and civilityIt was a day of the triple rudeness whammy.

One was delivered in my Twitter stream.

The  second and third ones happened in meetings when an individual shared their point of view and was vigorously pommelled with personal attacks. It was brutal, and I wanted out of there.

Research tells us that more and more people feel free to insult and attack those with differing viewpoints. They practice incivility:  “the exchange of seemingly inconsequential inconsiderate words and deeds that violate conventional norms or workplace conduct.” (Pearson and Porath, 2009)

Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, in partnership with KRC Research, began studying incivility in 2010. Their 2013 findings are troubling:

  • 17.1 = average number of times Americans encounter incivility in a 7-day week, or 2.4 times per day
  • 8.5 = average number of times Americans encounter incivility in real life/offline in a week
  • 8.6 = average number of times Americans encounter incivility online in a week

There’s still more. Of Americans surveyed…

  • 50% have ended a friendship because another person was uncivil
  • 48% have defriended, blocked or hidden someone online because of uncivil behavior
  • 43% expect to experience incivility in the next 24 hours
  • 26% have quit a job because it was an uncivil workplace
  • 24% have personally experienced cyberbullying (threefold increase since 2011)
  • 19% of parents have transferred their child to a different school because of incivility at school

Yikes, what dismal findings.

Taming incivility

We should…be able to disagree without demonizing, debate without demeaning, and discuss without degrading. ~Susan Dench

Recommendations for how to stem the tide of rudeness are found everywhere:

Robert Sutton, author and professor, advocates for publicly calling out offenders and for the near-elimination of a**holes from the workplace, including employees and managers who qualify.

Christine Porath and Christine Pearson in their HBR article, “The Price of Incivility,” counsel leaders to model good behavior and “create a culture of respect” by expressing your appreciation of employees and others around you.

John Fuller, Director, Office of Workforce Diversity at Johns Hopkins Hospital suggests practicing empathy, especially for our bosses:

“We all report to someone. Experts say it is good to remember that today’s managers have a lot of responsibilities; increasing revenue, keeping customers, i.e., patients or students happy, managing a diverse workforce that comprises four generations of people who are motivated and fulfilled differently based upon their culture. A little empathy for the boss can’t hurt.” ~John Fuller

Some organizations advocate for training all employees “in respectful communication protocols and the consequences of not adhering to them.” Pier M. Forni, professor and founder of The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins University “defines the basics of civility as the Three R’s: Respect, Restraint and Responsibility.”

Jim Taylor, a psychologist at the University of San Francisco, writing in the Huffington Post, contends that:

“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 strictures.” ~Jim Taylor

As for me, I see differences of opinion, even really big ones, as opportunities for growth, not invitations to be disagreeable, condescending, or downright hateful.

It all comes back to tolerance and acceptance, respecting someone’s right to think or feel differently. Contrarians make life interesting.

What’s your view?



Image source before quote:  morgueFile.com






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