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Rewards of a Civil Workplace

Why do you care about civility? Because organizations with healthy workplace cultures have employees that get along. When employees respect each other, and have healthy relationships with one another, they make better decisions, are more innovative, and learn more. That translates into employee engagement, and when you have engaged and loyal employees you have reduced turnover and absenteeism. Reduced turnover means better quality and quantity of work, and better customer service. Better work and happy customers means meeting organizational goals, and that means bottom line results!

Costs of an Unhealthy Workplace

On the other hand, bullying, abusive conduct, sexual harassment, hostility and other negative workplace behaviors result in targets and witnesses feeling distress, anxiety, humiliation, burnout, and a multitude of other feelings – and that hurts your bottom line. All of the things that will help your organization meet its goals and achieve bottom line results are out the window.

The negative and damaging behaviors become part of the organizational culture and a vicious cycle ensues – one that cannot end until you make the decision to consciously and strategically adjust the organization to one that is civil, healthy and safe.

But Don’t Take Our Word for It:

“HR types throughout corporate America… spend a lot of time fretting about employee retention, looking for ways to incentivize their best workers to stick around. One way to do that, it seems, is to figure out how to incentivize the bullies among them not to.” Time.com

“Once incivility occurs, it’s easy for negative thoughts to seep into people’s heads and stay there, translating into negative behavior… I’ve found that once people are exposed to rudeness, they are three times less likely to help others and their willingness to share drops by more than half. It makes sense: When someone behaves poorly or offensively, bad feelings spread and behaviors escalate, sometimes becoming aggressive or dysfunctional.” HBR.org

“Psychologist Michael H. Harrison, Ph.D., of Harrison Psychological Associates, quotes a recent survey of 9,000 federal employees indicating that 42 percent of female and 15 percent of male employees reported being harassed within a two-year period, resulting in a cost of more than $180 million in lost time and productivity.” Orlando Business Journal

“Bullying has a hugely negative impact on an organization as a whole. Whether you’re a direct victim or whether you’re a witness, it’s going to impact your ability to work in teams, it decreases productivity and it can affect businesses’ ability to recruit and retain talent. A lot of the best employees come through referrals, and no one’s going to refer their friends, family, colleagues to an abusive work environment.” CIO.com

Still not convinced? Here’s what academic, peer-reviewed journal articles have to say about the costs of workplace bullying:

Brouse, Fontana, Ouchchane, Boisson, et al., (2008) found that 81% of their participants reported high levels of stress due to bullying at work, 52% showed symptoms of depression, and 83% showed symptoms of anxiety. Clinical signs observed were dysphoria, insomnia, reduced libido and feeling alienated. Further, 25% reported suicidal ideation; 52% reported deep fear of returning to work and somatic symptoms including heart palpitation, migraines, muscular pain and digestive disorders; 52% reported feelings of shame, and; 56% felt a loss in their self-confidence.

Agervold and Mikkelsen (2004) found that bullied employees reported significantly more symptoms of psychological stress and mental fatigue than non-bullied employees. Bullied employees reported more sick leave than non-bullied employees, having taken 10 more days per year. Bullied employees also reported receiving unclear and contradictory work tasks, and experienced management as authoritarian rather than employee-oriented.

Zapf, Knorz, and Kulla (1996) found that bullied employees experienced psychosomatic symptoms, irritation, depression, and damage to self-esteem. Further, 54% of the sample received medical treatment, 55% had three or more periods of sick leave during the previous 12 months, and 24% said they used long-term sick leave as a strategy to cope with bullying.

Niedhammer, David, Drummond, and Philip (2009) found in their study of 7,694 participants that being bullied was strongly associated with sleep disturbance, and that the prevalence of sleep disturbance increased with age, work hours of more than 40 per week, and depressive symptoms.

Vartia (2001) found in her study of 949 respondents, that 40% of targets experienced stress – they reported more stress, mental stress reactions and feelings of low self-confidence than observers of bullying and those who did not report being bullied. Judging a person’s work in an offending manner was most strongly connected with feelings of stress. Further, 29% of targets used sleep-inducing drugs and sedatives, versus 18% of observers and 8% of non-bullied participants.

Cortina, Magley, Williams and Langhout (2001) found that the more frequent the bullying (what they called incivility) the more symptoms of depression and anxiety rose.

Mikkelsen & Einarsen (2002) found that exposure to bullying strongly correlated with psychological health complaints and psychosomatic complaints.

Tepper (2000) found that subordinates who perceived their supervisors as abusive reported “significantly lower life satisfaction… greater depression, greater anxiety, and greater emotional exhaustion.”

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