Here’s how to stop communication incivility in your workplace

By Dianna Booher

In addition to unrest in the streets, incivility all too often arises in the workplace. Many offer reasons for the mundane rudeness: pent-up anger over job losses, survivor guilt, COVID fear, financial loss, a volatile 401K or IRA, and the list goes on.

Whatever the cost, the cure can be painless.

Perhaps you’ve experienced some recent rudeness:

  • Curt responses from help center agents
  • Abrupt responses from customers calling help centers (“I’ve been on hold for 50 minutes listening to your call-is-important-to-us messages, and now you’re telling me there’s no solution! # $% &% “)
  • Late arrivals to meetings – virtual or live (“Stuck in traffic” can’t be an excuse for ZOOM.)
  • People eat and drink in a virtual meeting or on the phone
  • People who enter your space, “up close and personal” to speak without masks
  • People who try to ‘outdo’ your stories or expertise
  • People who simply don’t respond to coworker emails
  • Explanatory on your publications on social networks
  • Confrontational and intimidating remarks to other commenters on your social media posts
  • Spam calls
  • Hitting Your Inbox With Offensive Jokes And Stories

Here are some solutions to the rampant rudeness:

Fight against incivility with your communication style

Focus on the goal, not your feelings

When treated rudely, your first reaction is likely an emotional response. If you communicate in this state of mind, things will only escalate into the typical dead end. So stay calm and stay focused on the goal: a solution to your problem or an answer to your question. A useful meeting discussion. An insightful post on social media. Or a quick trip to the store.

Offer empathy

Several years ago, I saw a famous speaker quickly calm a crowd of angry and rude conference attendees. The promoter of the event had somehow oversold 1,000 seats, mistakenly selling duplicate tickets for over 1,000 seats.

So when these people arrived, walked to the auditorium balcony and found someone else sitting in their assigned place, they were upset. As people continued to gather and moan, the event host repeatedly announced that the event was mistakenly oversold and that they would open up additional areas to accommodate the overflow and unexpected crowds. .

The growls and clashes continued.

Then a new voice came over the broadcast system – this time it was the famous speaker who had stepped onto the podium in her wheelchair. Paralyzed at the age of 19 after a swimming accident, Joni was there to talk about resilience and faith.

Out of the blue, Joni started, “May I have your attention for a second?” I know some of you are upset to learn of the mistake and have had to take your place elsewhere. You are not sitting where you expected. . . . I too find that I am not sitting where I expected to be today.

The whispers became noticeably calmer and more respectful. The prospect pays.

Model the communication you want

Ask questions to get the facts of a situation. Provide the appropriate details so that the other person can clearly understand what happened. Keep focusing on the resolution: One-off meetings. Open discussion on an issue with input from the whole focus group. Respect of the deadline of a project. Reasonable expenses.

After you respond empathetically to the other person, stay focused on finding the facts and finding a solution to the problem.

Clearly state the next steps

Do not threaten, especially with threats that you cannot or do not intend to execute. Rather, be clear about what your next steps will be if you can’t come to an agreement.

An example: “Let’s keep hearing others talk about problem X. If we can’t come to an agreement on whether or not to accept this offer, I will email Cari asking her to make the decision.” -even. It is not a threat; it is a statement of conditions and next actions.

Document an incident

If incivility seems to be increasing rather than decreasing, document what happened – the who, what, when, why and how of the situation. Never trust your memory. Contemporary notes carry weight, even in the courtroom.

While these strategies will not entirely rid the world of rudeness, they will contribute to calmer reactions and faster, more appropriate resolutions.

Dianna Booher is the bestselling author of 48 books, including Communicate like a leader. It helps organizations communicate clearly. Follow her on and @DiannaBooher.

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