Research

Three steps to cultivate civility in the workplace

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Bullying is widespread within health care organizations across the globe—and has detrimental effects on both staff and patients. Providers report a wide range of adverse impacts related to bullying, including: poor mental health of staff, low staff engagement, high absenteeism, increased turnover, decreased care quality, and increased likelihood of medical errors.

The good news is that most organizations and their staff share a common understanding of what blatant incivility looks like in the workplace—for example, name-calling, shouting, or using profanity. In addition, most health care organizations actively manage employee behavior that gets labeled, colloquially and formally, as bullying.

However, aside from overt instances of bullying, staff typically don’t have a clear understanding of what more subtle incivility looks like in the workplace. Which behaviors should be reported? And which should be handled informally between colleagues? There’s an enormous grey area of toxic and disruptive behaviors that may not be recognized or reported by staff.

In order to see substantial gains in workplace civility, workforce leaders should address not only egregious behaviors, but also less obvious forms of incivility, which often go underreported. We recommend organizations take a three-step approach to cultivating civility in the workplace.

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