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Incivility in the Workplace

By Doris Deits

An interesting topic was highlighted in a recent CBS news report – Incivility in the workplace. Rudeness in the workplace is up and morale is down.

Of workers polled, 86 percent say they experienced hostility in the workplace and a whopping 90 percent admitted to instigating rude behavior.

The conclusion reached in the report was that most of people polled were feeling more stressed but don’t know how to handle or manage it, so they get angry.

My conclusion is Awesome Sauce!

I can hardly believe that rude behavior in the workplace is being given a sliver of air time on national TV. Incivility in the workplace is nothing new and not likely to improve anytime soon, but the fact that it’s being discussed and seen as detrimental is incredible.

One of the key signs that the Aquarian energies are working their magic is humanity’s growing intolerance of negative behaviors. Our inability to tolerate certain behaviors is the impetus for the needed change, and clearly we are ready for change.

Looking back at the past few years, I cannot deny the growing body of evidence that this is indeed happening. The #MeToo movement, the LGBTQ community awareness, college campus rape culture initiatives, even violence in sports with brain injury awareness have all demonstrated our growing intolerance of society’s historical acceptance of these negative behaviors.

We now see this intolerance expanding into broader areas.

Not that long ago, the aggression of bullying in the workplace was at the forefront of conversation. But now we have the subtler expressions of hostility being brought into the light for discussion.

People who educate on the topic of bullying have been instrumental in creating a better definition or understanding of aggressive bullying, as opposed to being mean vs rudeness. These are just varying degrees or intensities of the same behavior pattern, all of which we are becoming sensitive of.

To demonstrate the leadership issues with incivility, the CBS news report included an observation of a manager reaming an employee directly under a sign with the words “We value our employees.”

I laughed at that. My brain still carries the scars of sitting through team-building exercises led by the very people who put the “dis” in disrespect. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

The fact that there’s a growing interest in understanding the destructive nature of these behaviors along with a desire to improve on them is a miracle given our history of cultural violence and abuse.

We as a society seem to be embracing the reality that everyone’s emotional well-being has value and recognizing that it has a significant impact that touches all of us. We all want to feel safe, respected and heard.

Maybe that catchy phrase, “Suck it up, Buttercup,” will stop being spoon-fed to us when getting a face full of incivility. At least I hope so.

I was surprised CBS reported that people acknowledged they aren’t doing anything to manage their stress or anger. They are simply lashing out when they get too full of stress. This behavior is also known as emotional vomiting.

Emotional vomiting is in fact a coping mechanism, but ineffective for long-term stress relief. It’s the process of dumping the overload of feelings and emotions that can’t be processed onto another.

The relief is only temporary, however. Stress is a part of life, and soon one will feel the need to unload another snot-full of unprocessed stress onto yet another unsuspecting co-worker. It would be so much easier if we could somehow take away another person’s stress or anger, but we can’t. Everyone is responsible for their own emotional health and all pent-up emotions or stress must be released by the owner.

Unfortunately, there will be some lag time between seeing the rudeness problem and actually changing the rudeness problem. Until that time comes, the only thing we can really do in these situations is to not take ownership of someone else’s vomit when it’s headed your way. Realize the behavior as an inappropriate coping mechanism.

Remember that you cannot process someone else’s anger. Don’t take it on by feeling insulted or defensive – just leave the vomit on the floor and move away as quickly as possible.

Of course, saying, “Don’t take it personally,” is great advice, but it can be challenging when a large amount of vomit gets launched and you forget to duck.

While there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to managing stress or anger, talking about how we feel (not just complaining) is always a good place to start.

Opening up and sharing one’s feelings and fears helps to release the energetic charge attached to stress-related things. This is important to remember because it’s the unreleased energetic charge that is causing the explosions, not the stressors themselves. We can help others by listening (don’t fix) and being supportive through encouragement (“It’s going to be OK”).

Humanity’s evolutionary march can be witnessed by our readiness to let go of negative behaviors and reaching for something better. From these places of imbalance and disharmony, we are connecting the dots that better human relating is too valuable to ignore.

When everyone is feeling safe and respected, harmony rules the day and everyone benefits.

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