Ten Mental Barriers to Stepping Up

If you have refrained from taking action to deal with incivility in your workplace, you must have had good reasons to do so.

Or at least, you persuaded yourself that you did.

You might be a person in a leadership position, or you might be a front-line contributor who is a ‘bystander,’ i.e. a witness to workplace incivility that is happening in around you but not directed at you.

One way or another, in that instance, you spared yourself the effort, thought and courage that would be required to step up to the plate.

Yes, these are strong statements. But if you look more closely (and honestly) at your own experiences and those of others you know, you probably realize the above is, sadly, true to reality.

Here’s an excerpt from Sharone Bar-David’s book, Trust Your Canary: Every Leader’s Guide to Taming Workplace Incivility describing common thoughts that might be preventing you from taking meaningful action. Which of these apply to you?

  1. The behavior in question isn’t really that serious.
  2. The person (or persons) behaving uncivilly is too powerful for me to take on.
  3. As long as the customer doesn’t see this, no real damage is done.
  4. These problems are too engrained in the culture.
  5. I can’t change this alone.
  6. Things will sort themselves out.
  7. It’s always been like this.
  8. This environment is significantly more respectful than my previous workplace. I should be content with what I have.
  9. If I do something, who knows what else might happen.
  10. Doing something about it will demand too much time and effort.

Fact is, sometimes there are indeed reality-based reasons to avoid action. For example, when your own boss is uncivil or senior management sets a bad example. Or when there’s no commitment at the top to maintaining a civil organizational culture. But much of the time, the obstacles lie within your own mind and heart.

It’s only human to experience the above thoughts and the anxieties, fears and sense of immobilization that they trigger. Avoidance is natural and understandable. But here’s the problem: if you and everyone around you succumb to these thoughts, how will things ever change?

If you feel you’d like to do better, consider these questions:

  1. When I do take not take action, to what extent am I aligned with the person I truly want to be in this world, i.e. with my higher self, my values, and personal ethics?
  2. What small—even tiny—step can I take on the spot when I witness behavior that is uncivil in my workplace?
  3. What meaningful action can I take “after the fact” to feel better about myself while also making a positive contribution to my work environment?

Good luck on the journey!

Workplace Culture: You Get What You Grow

Having worked with companies for more than 25 years on leadership development, civility, and performance, I have learned one thing for certain: every company has a distinct culture, either by design (intentional) or by default (unintentional).

Micro-inequities, Bias and Incivility

I sometimes get asked about the relationship between micro-inequities and workplace incivility. With current racial tensions in the background, let’s take a look at this question.

When Reality Trumps Civility

In a recent workshop, as we were reviewing the list of behaviors that are considered workplace incivility, a manager exclaimed, “Are we now teaching people in the workplace basic manners? Is this what we have come to?!”

Hop, Skip, and Leap to Conclusions!

Do people really intend to be dismissive, belittling or inconsiderate when they engage in those seemingly insignificant behaviors that we refer to as workplace incivility?


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