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1 May 2013 CFA Institute Journal Review

The Price of Incivility (Digest Summary)

  1. Marla Howard, CFA

Some techniques can manage incidents of incivility both within an organization and in cross-cultural contexts. The authors address the forms and costs of incivility and then suggest and present methods to reduce the potential for such occurrences as well as the costs associated with such uncivil behavior.

What’s Inside?

The authors collect data from more than 14,000 people, tracking the prevalence, types, causes, costs, and cures of incivility at work. They propose interventions for what they consider costly, but rarely dealt with, behavior.

How Is This Article Useful to Practitioners?

Through their interviews, questionnaires, and experiments, the authors discover that incivility in the workplace is on the rise. There are costs associated with this increase, and few organizations are taking action against it.

In the workplace, both direct forms of incivility, such as unchecked rudeness by superiors toward subordinates, and more subtle forms, such as superiors taking credit for positive outcomes but placing blame for negative outcomes, are exhibited. Among the costs associated with incivility are decreased work effort, quality, and commitment to the organization among employees. In addition, incivility can result in a decrease in creativity and performance, a deterioration of team spirit, and negative customer responses.

Managing such rude behavior is expensive. The authors suggest a number of ways managers can deal with incivility: by demonstrating good behavior, requesting feedback, monitoring employees’ progress toward reducing incivility, hiring individuals who exhibit positive behavior, rewarding employees’ positive behavior, and penalizing employees’ uncivil behavior.

To promote civility in global relations, individuals are encouraged to consider issues that might offend those of other cultures and to research cultures with which they are dealing. While interacting with individuals in other cultures, show respect, be agreeable, pay attention, adapt behavior where appropriate, and learn from mistakes.

Abstractor’s Viewpoint

It is logical for financial practitioners to focus on financial reports, market trends, revenues, and expenditures. The authors encourage practitioners to look beyond the numbers. Uncivil behavior can negatively influence coworkers and clients and damage creativity and commitment within the work environment. Incivility can lead to loss of productivity, revenue, and good employees. The authors’ research and suggestions are useful in promoting more effective hiring and management practices that reward civility, penalize incivility, and help individuals evaluate their behavior in the workplace with customers and with those from other cultures.

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