RU faculty research, report on workplace incivility


If someone has been a jerk at work, their behavior should be addressed on their annual employee performance review. But is it?

Not likely, says two Radford University College of Business and Economics (COBE) faculty members.

Dan Davidson, professor and chair of COBE's Department of Accounting, Finance and Business Law, and Management Assistant Professor Danylle Kunkel have researched and recently written a journal article, "Making Incivility Count: An Argument for the Inclusion of Incivility in Performance Reviews."

The article examines the impact of incivil behavior in the workplace and advocates for companies and organizations to address incivility in their respective annual employee performance reviews.

Davidson and Kunkel penned the article for the Allied Academies 2014 International Conference, where it was recognized as a Distinguished Research Award winner. The paper will be published later this year by the Academy of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict.

Workplace incivility is more than bad manners or boorish behavior, Davidson and Kunkel explain. It can include writing nasty or demeaning notes or emails, undermining a colleague's credibility, berating or giving the silent treatment to a coworker and spreading gossip.

Incivility also affects the bottom line of businesses and organizations.

"It becomes a profit loss when you talk about incivility," Kunkel said. "If someone is not performing at their highest, that creates profit loss for organizations." She cited statistics that show stress caused by workplace incivility costs U.S. companies an estimated $300 billion annually.

"Incivil coworkers lead to higher turnover rates, lower productivity and a decline in employee morale," Davidson said.

Kunkel knows firsthand about the stresses and strains caused by rude workplace behavior. A previous work experience led her to conduct her research.

"I would go in (to her place of work) and leave because I didn't want to be where I was because that person was so incivil," Kunkel recalled. "I would literally come in, close my door, do my work, not talk to anybody and then leave. And I knew my potential wasn't being met in that organization because of this person's behavior toward me. So, that's really where my research started. I knew if it was happening to me, it had to be happening to other people. I was surprised to see how much."

For their research, Kunkel and Davidson examined 132 employee performance reviews from government, education and private industry to determine whether civility or incivility was being measured. Out of those reviews, the researchers found only two performance reviews that addressed incivility. Both of those were in educational institutions.

While civility – i.e. being a good team player and being cooperative – was addressed in many of the performance reviews, Kunkel said it is important for organizations to also address the not-so-nice behavior that sometimes occurs at work.

"Someone can demonstrate good teamwork and still have incivil behaviors," she said. "Incivility needs to be sanctioned."

However, Kunkel said high performers tend to get away with a little more and often explain away their behaviors by saying "I didn't mean it that way" or that the offended person is "being too sensitive."

"That could be true or it could be they are just unaware," Kunkel noted. "So, we need to bring that awareness to people and let them know it's not OK."

Kunkel said training for organizations could be helpful, but ramifications are a must for organizations to hold employees responsible for rude and boorish behaviors.

"We know that performance reviews help create a culture in organizations," Kunkel said. "They set the culture and set the standards for behavior, and if incivility is not addressed in performance reviews, essentially what we're saying is 'incivility is part of our culture.'"

Jun 24, 2014