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

Schedule a free session to learn about Q behaviors

Get a sneak peak of our Leadership Through People Skills®

Download our free presentation “Dealing With Difficult People”

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 
7:30am
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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The Secret to Dealing with Difficult People

Whether you are a middle manager or top executive; you have surely encountered a situation where you needed to deal with a difficult person – or even a difficult group of people.  This complimentary breakfast briefing event “The Secret to Dealing with Difficult People” will introduce you to the skills you need to deal with any person in any situation to increase overall productivity and to achieve the results you desire.

In this briefing, Roger Heape, Vice President of Instructional Consulting; and Pam Hager, Vice President of Instructional Consulting – the primary facilitator of our award winning Leadership Through People Skills®, will introduce you to our Dimensional® Model of Behavior™ and help you

  • examine several common, business, interpersonal issues
  • prevent bad habits that lead to road blocks
  • and give you tips to help increase your productivity when dealing with difficult people and situations.

Check out the brief video below as an example of how good intentions can go bad in a work conversation and derail all productivity and results.

Which person is derailing this conversation? Are either of them being Q4? We’ll discuss this in greater detail in the seminar and show you how the situation could be handled better.

Think someone you deal with is not Q4? Take our survey to find out what Q they are and use what you learn in class to work better with them.

The Secret to Dealing with Difficult People is a complimentary breakfast briefing, but space is limited and it does fill up fast, so be sure to register today.

The Secret to Dealing with Difficult People
August 9, 2012
Psychological Associates’ Offices in Clayton
8112 Maryland Avenue, Suite 300, Clayton, MO 63105  7:30am
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

Forward information about this breakfast briefing to a colleague

Learn more about Leadership Through People Skills®

Learn about recognition Leadership Through People Skills® has received

Sign up for our leadership newsletter

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