7 Steps to Play Nice at the Office

Dealing With Workplace Incivility

Heather Heimbaugh, M.A.
Meghan R. Lowery, Ph.D.

Do you struggle with employees who are repeatedly absent, show little effort, never seem to go the extra mile, or neither seem satisfied nor committed to their jobs?

If you answered yes to any of these, you may have a problem with workplace incivility – but your employees may not be the one struggling!

Before you start pointing fingers and placing blame on the employees, consider whether these individuals are the real the problem. More often than we realize, these counterproductive behaviors occur in reaction to the work environment or organization’s leadership. Perhaps even your own leadership could be partially at fault. Remember, when you point one finger, there are four others pointing back at you.

Specifically, we find they are reacting to non-Q4 behaviors as defined by Psychological Associates’ The Dimensional® Model of Behavior. Q4 behaviors are those that are involving, assertive, and collaborative. However, there are three other quadrants, as shown below, in which behaviors can fall as well, and those are the ones we find most troublesome in a work setting.

q4 model in hand

At this point you, or someone you know, may think, “Now, wait a minute! I am definitely not the problem. I may not be the picture of niceness all the time, but my employees do not need a friend, they need a boss. It is my job to make sure the work gets done, and if I have to occasionally raise my voice to make sure that happens, then so be it.”

There is a problem with this thinking. Even low intensity, seemingly benign behaviors like interrupting others, swearing, telling offensive jokes, conducting oneself unprofessionally, embarrassing others, subtly undermining others’ opinions, speaking condescendingly, using sarcasm, and rudeness – behaviors falling specifically in the Q1 quadrant of the Model – have the potential to produce negative consequences. These behaviors fit under the broader classification of workplace incivility, which includes any behavior that threatens the workplace norm for mutual respect, regardless of its intention.

Workplace incivility might seem relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things compared to abusive supervision, workplace aggression, or harassment. However, it can create a great deal of stress for the target when it persists for a relatively long duration, occurs with great enough frequency, or manifests in varied or unpredictable ways.

The stress often results in a variety of consequences, many the same as those resulting from higher intensity, more openly aggressive behaviors. Furthermore, these consequences are not isolated to just the target. That is, even witnessing or hearing about workplace incivility can lead to the same negative consequences, such as:

  • Damage to trust
  • Retaliatory behaviors
  • Tardiness and/or leaving work early
  • An unwillingness to help out others or “go the extra mile”
  • Decreased
    • satisfaction with one’s supervisor, coworkers, and job
    • organizational commitment
    • perceptions of justice
    • effort, productivity, and performance
  • Increased
    • job withdrawal
    • turnover intentions
    • prevalence of mental and physical health problems

Abolishing, or at the very least, lessening the prevalence of workplace incivility at your organization can help reverse many of these while  encouraging improvements to organizational functioning and performance. By demonstrating Q4 collaborative behaviors, you can make a difference in the lives of your employees. The following are some techniques to help you begin:

  1. Team up with other leaders to set an example of the type of behavior you expect to see from employees in your organization.
  2. Ensure your interactions with peers are consistent with the behavior expected from others. Even if you know with certainty that your peer will not be offended by a joke or other unprofessional behaviors, others who might overhear the interaction may not feel the same.
  3. Always treat direct reports with respect. When they make mistakes, never say something that will make them feel badly. Instead, offer your support, and collaborate in creating a plans so the mistakes do not happen again.
  4. Give all negative feedback in private. Even if your feedback is constructive, calling out a person’s weaknesses in public can cause embarrassment.
  5. When you see something that constitutes uncivil behavior, take corrective action. Although you may be wary of issues not directly involving you, the worst thing you can do is ignore the situation. Workplace incivility builds off itself, and, if left unchecked, can transform into more overt and intentional aggression. Furthermore, if the incivility is allowed to permeate, it may become a part of the organization’s culture.
  6. Build positive relationships with other employees. Take time to get to know them as individuals.
  7. Be a respectful leader. Support a work environment that instills confidence, not fear and uncertainty. It is OK to be assertive, so long as it is balanced with respect and collaboration.

Learn how to deal with difficult people at the office

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Q4 Disruptions

Psychological Associates is excited to announce that our own Cindy Lefton, RN, Ph.D., Vice President Organizational Consulting, had an article published in the May 2013 issue of prestigious American Nurse Today. In the article, “Why disruption can be a good thing,” Cindy discusses how positive disruption – or challenging the status quo – in the medical field can lead to better patient outcomes and why nurses should create this positive disruption. “Unfortunately, in health care, too many situations arise where workers fail to speak up and disrupt the status quo – with serious repercussions,” she said.

When someone does not challenge the status quo or rock the boat, they are exhibiting Q2 behaviors based on the Dimensional Model of Behavior®. This can be detrimental to any company or, in the case of healthcare, to patients. By learning how to behave in a more Q4 manner, you can help your organization go from good to great or help avoid potentially serious repercussions for a patient. Being overly friendly or accepting of a superior or direct report is also call for a “positive disruption.” This Q3 behavior can lead to mistakes and things being swept under the rug, which can lead to a false sense that everything is ok.

Learn more about Q behaviors

Cindy combines her extensive knowledge of organizational psychology with her experience as a registered nurse to develop effective interventions for academic medical centers and hospitals. She is a sought-after speaker and author of many articles on the topic of psychology in nursing and healthcare leadership, and she will have additional articles published in the coming months.

Get the full article

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PRESENTATION: Learning Agility


Learning Agility is a hot topic these days – what exactly is it and how does it affect you?

This presentation will help you better understand what learning agility is, how to tell if someone has it, and when to know if you even need it for a specific role. The information within will help you identify, hire and promote individuals who will succeed and grow in their new positions.  After review you will be able to:

  • define learning agility
  • interview to uncover agility
  • setup an appropriate battery to assess for agility
  • understand the importance of learning agility within your organization

Learn more about our Q4 Dimensional® Model of Behavior™

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PRESENTATION: Succession Planning


We recently hosted an event with the Metro East Illinois Human Resources Group to help HR leaders learn the key strategies to develop a succession plan. Dr. Michelle Clark, Vice President of Organizational Consulting, discussed the importance of succession planning, how understanding behavior can help you and your organization get the right plan in place, and key pitfalls to avoid when implementing a succession plan.

We know as a Human Resources leader you are continually striving to ensure you have the right people in the right roles in your organization. This presentation will help you be sure you continue to do so in the future. This information will help you create a successful succession plan which will help you identify and develop employees who can best contribute to your organization’s goals in the future.  After review you will be able to:

  • avoid the pitfalls of only analyzing past performance
  • combine and accurately measure past performance and skill sets
  • analyze future potential of individuals

Learn more about our Q4 Dimensional® Model of Behavior™

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EVENT: Succession Planning

You Have the Right People in the Right Place Now…But What About in the Future?


As a Human Resource leader, undoubtedly you are inundated with the need to assure you currently have the right people in the right roles within your organization.

Are you also working to assure your organization will continue to have the right people in the right roles in the future?

Now is the time to act. Successor development planning helps you identify and develop employees who are best positioned to contribute to the organization’s future. At this Metro-East Illinois Human Resources Group (MEI-HRG) event Psychological Associates, will illustrate how you can develop an effective system of succession planning for your organization. We will demonstrate how using one method of looking at the past performances of individuals can hamper even the most well-intended succession plans. It is a combination of past performance, future potential, and overall skills sets that put the right people in the right roles well into an organization’s future.

This event is designed for all levels of HR and anyone handling the talent management needs of an organization. It does cost to become a member of the MEI-HRG, however, this event is free to all who would like to attend.

At this event you will learn how to:

  • avoid the pitfalls of only analyzing past performance
  • combine and accurately measure past performance and skill sets
  • analyze future potential of individuals

Succession Planning – You Have the Right People in the Right Places Now…
But What About the Future
Thursday, April 11, 2013
The Collinsville Golden Corral
12:00pm – 1:30pm

Seating is limited. Please fill out our registration form to reserve your spot:

Like to handle things the old-fashioned way – talking to a real live person? Give us a call to register! 314.678.5678

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EVENT: Unlock the Resistance to Change

…Key Strategies that Work!

key to change

You may not always foresee change, but you can anticipate that change in your business environment has the capability of causing resistance, or even paralyzing fear, among anyone within your organization – from the senior team to the individual contributor.

Join us at our upcoming event, Unlock the Resistance to Change: Key Strategies that Work, where we will address this resistance and help you identify leverage points at the organization, senior team, and individual levels. Dr. Michelle Clark will illustrate key strategies to help your organization adapt to changes in the marketplace, and examine strategies many companies employ that do not work. You will leave this event armed with proven tools you can use immediately to eradicate issues that hamper change within your organization.

This event is designed for attendees at the C-Suite level and above.

You will learn how to:

  • realize if you are in the way of change
  • address changes in your culture
  • adapt to changes in the marketplace

We know everyone’s change management concerns are different, and we want this event to have a big impact on your success. So we are offering a special gift to event attendees – a complimentary, individualized change management coaching session with one of our specialized Ph.D. consultants for up to one hour. You will receive a certificate at the event you can use for this complimentary session.

Unlock the Resistance to Change – Key Strategies that Work
Friday, April 5, 2013
Psychological Associates Office
8112 Maryland Avenue, Suite 300
Saint Louis, MO 63105 
7:30am – 9:00am
7:30-7:50 – Light Breakfast and Networking
7:50-8:45 Change Management Strategies
8:45-9:00 Questions and Networking

Seating and complimentary coaching sessions are limited.

Please fill out our registration form to reserve your spot:

Like to handle things the old-fashioned way – talking to a real live person? Give us a call to register! 314.678.5678

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EVENT: 3 Reasons a Company Can Fail…

…and 1 BIG Reason It Can Succeed

q4 model in hand

Everyone knows there are many reasons a company might fail.  But not everyone knows many failures occur due to a team or individual’s behavior.  At Psychological Associates we divide behaviors into four quadrants – found in our Dimensional® Model of Behavior™.  Three of those quadrants identify behaviors that can lead a company to fail.  One of the quadrants, the one we call Q4 – describes those behaviors that are results focused and foster a company’s success.

We and the Saint Louis RCGA cordially invite you to attend a Business After-Hours Event where complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served while local business leaders share success stories. At this event you will discover what top executives at leading Saint Louis based companies such as Emerson, Centene, and Buckingham Asset Management have done to ensure successful leadership development.

We’ll also give you an inside look at our flagship workshop, the newly redesigned Leadership Through People Skills® (LTPS.) Please join us at 5:30 p.m. February 6, 2013, in the second floor gathering area of the Knight Center at Washington University to learn the behaviors that can foster your company’s success.

RCGA Business After Hours Event – 3 Reasons a Company Can Fail
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Charles F. Knight Center at Washington University
5:30 – 7pm 
Complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served  
Space is limited, please fill out our registration form to reserve your spot:

Like to handle things the old-fashioned way – talking to a real live person? Give us a call to register! 314.678.5678

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3 Pitfalls of Do-It-Yourself Organizational Surveys

Written by: Meghan R. Lowery, Ph.D.


Advanced technology makes designing, using, and administering online surveys easier than ever. A prominent employee survey vendor even remarked “an intern can create a survey!” In part, they are correct. Organizations often relegate survey design and rollout to internal employees, who, with best intentions, create a measure they feel will help achieve the organization’s objectives – such as measuring employee opinions or understanding customer satisfaction metrics –  but often fall short of the strategic goals.

The DIY method often leaves out integral keys to surveys – pertinent questions, accurate data, and meaningful interpretation. Though the process of actually creating a survey, from the most simplistic to incredibly complex, has been made easier through new technology, the unfortunate reality is that user error has become more commonplace.

Imagine if it was suddenly easier and cheaper to manufacture weight scales by doing it yourself. Everyone on the lookout for a good bargain would buy the discount DIY scale, assemble the pieces at home, and step on the scale. To their amazement, the scale may read they are 15 pounds lighter than they were expecting. This DIY scale also is supposed to measure height, which helps in calculating body mass index. Oddly though, sometimes the measurements are 1 to 2 inches shorter or taller than previous measurements. Now, the individual’s body mass index is not the same – inaccurate in fact – but it’s close, and the scale was inexpensive.

This hypothetical tale of woe illustrates a simple concept: because the scale is DIY, it has a higher chance of turning out to be unreliable. This problem is just one of many pitfalls that can occur with DIY surveys. Here are other drawbacks:

Asking the Wrong Questions

Reliability and validity are integral when it comes to constructing strong organizational surveys. The questions are vital for understanding what an organization actually wants to know. It is important to consider what information you want as a result – not simply what to ask. There is a phrase commonly used to describe a source of bad data: “junk in equals junk out.” If the questions are not reliable, valid, and consistent, the conclusions that are drawn from the resulting data may not be correct. For this very reason, it is important to have a professional trained in survey methodology to design, construct, administer, and even interpret survey data for your organization.

Lack of Candor

Another problem that can occur when surveys are administered by internal sources is the resulting lack of candor from the employees themselves. Receiving candid responses is vital to the success of any survey, and employees may feel they cannot answer candidly when their responses are going directly to another employee, however trustworthy that person may be. Employees may feel responses could be viewed by their boss or another decision maker, and that can be frightening! Protect their interests and gain their trust by having an outside firm complete the data collection and analysis.

Radio Silence with Feedback

Many times, individuals compiling the results deliver the information directly to decision makers, who quietly absorb the report or discuss it with peers in high-level meetings. Though there may be changes made based upon the results, the employees rarely find out how their feedback may have helped the organization itself.  Revealing the entire report will not help in providing meaningful feedback either though.

It is essential to plan through who will be listening to the end results, communicate at a level that is appropriate, and disseminate results and the planned actions in a timely manner. Sounds simple, but this step is often forgotten, which means the employees can become distrustful of how their responses might be used in future surveys. A consultant trained in delivering feedback throughout the different levels of an organization can assist in this important process.

Learn why trust is the key to high performance

Though it is easy to construct and administer a survey using internal resources, the cost of doing so may turn out to be quite high if you get inaccurate data, false results, or have to duplicate your efforts. Data you can trust is invaluable in making strong organizational decisions. Be sure you make the right decisions from the right data.

Focus less on a bargain budget survey and enjoy the cost savings that may come after you incorporate valuable feedback from valid, reliable surveys your employees feel comfortable completing.

Implementing a fully reliable survey process is more affordable than you think – and can save you a lot of time and even help with employee retention. We would love to give you more information to help you improve your organizational surveys – just click here

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PRESENTATION: Gaining Employee Commitment to Increase Business Results

Our own Dr. Tom Brooks presented on the topic of employee engagement at a recent event for CEOs.  He explored the 10 things that drive employee commitment and increase bottom line results in any organization.

Below is Dr. Brooks’ presentation so you, too, can learn the essential elements of a committed workforce and how to gain commitment from your own employees. Topics covered in this presentation include:

  • The case for engagement
  • Specific drivers of engagement
  • Connecting workplace changes and engagement
  • Motivators of a committed workforce
  • Who owns responsibility of driving engagement

You can view the presentation in its entirety on slideshare or by using the widget below.

Watch for additional events and presentations coming soon from Psychological Associates.

As the leaders in organizational and leadership strategy and development solutions, we help our clients evolve into the organizations they wish to become. We offer talent management programs for some of the top Global 1000 companies. From assessments of new recruits to executive coaching and development to team building and numerous other programs, our Ph.D.s are well-versed on the needs of our Fortune 1000 clients.

To learn more about our offerings visit www.q4solutions.com/offerings.

At Psychological Associates we offer an exceptional leadership program called Leadership Through People Skills® on a monthly basis here in Saint Louis.  Leadership Through People Skills® is an intensive, three-day event that uses real-world issues and situations to give executives the opportunity to learn and apply the interpersonal leadership skills that are proven contributors to leadership success.  It teaches men and women how to use the appropriate amount of assertiveness and compassion as a leader; and helps grow the skills that help leaders obtain goals quicker.  LTPS provides rich, personal insights about leadership effectiveness and style. It strengthens influencing and people skills. It builds successful leaders.

We have also developed a group on LinkedIn where leaders can go to network with successful leaders across the globe and receive tips and articles from us as well as other individual contributors.  Join us in our LTPS group on Linkedin!

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EVENT: The Office Battleground: Secrets to End the Conflict

We have all been there – either at an impasse with a colleague or on the management end of a conflict among others. In today’s fast-paced, stressful business environment, it is inevitable to encounter workplace conflicts at some time.

Whether you are in the midst of the battle or playing the role of the peacekeeper, finding resolutions to these issues is essential. Unresolved issues can lead to diminished performance or cause permanent harm to your company.

Join Psychological Associates at our next complimentary Breakfast Briefing as we present The Office Battleground: Secrets to End the Conflict on November 29, 2012, at our office in Clayton. The event will be hosted by Pam Hager, Vice President of Instructional Consulting. Limited seating is available, so please RSVP as soon as possible.

Those who attend will learn:

  • How to get past conflict and get things done
  • How to size up behavior to understand the conflict styles of others, using the Dimensional® Model of Behavior™
  • How to reengage affected parties to work through the underlying disagreement
  • How to control your emotions and manage others’ emotions in resolving the issue

Based on our Working Through Conflict™ workshop, Ms. Hager will present the event in a “learn-by-doing” format with demonstrations and lively discussions. This is a do-not-miss opportunity for anyone seeking ways to resolve their own workplace conflicts or those within their own organizations.

Please mark this event on your calendar and register below to join us to get the tools you need to end conflict at your office.

“The Office BattleGround: Secrets to End the Conflict” is a complimentary breakfast briefing, but space is limited and it does fill up fast, so be sure to register today.

The Office BattleGround: Secrets to End the Conflict
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Psychological Associates
8112 Maryland Avenue, Suite 300
Clayton, MO 63105 
Breakfast will be served, seating is limited. 
Please fill out our registration form to reserve your space:

Like to handle things the old-fashioned way – talking to a real live person? Give us a call to register! 314.678.5678

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