RU faculty talk workplace incivility on public radio

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 written a journal article, "Making Incivility Count: An Argument for the Inclusion of Incivility in Performance Reviews."

Davidson and Kunkel will speak about their research in an interview this week on the With Good Reason public radio program.

The show will air Nov. 14-20 on With Good Reason stations. Listeners in the New River Valley can hear the show at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 17 on Public Radio WVRU 89.9. Programs also are available through podcasts at

In the article, Davidson and Kunkel examine 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.

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.

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.'"

With Good Reason is produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities for the Virginia Higher Education Broadcasting Consortium and is broadcast on public radio stations in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

With Good Reason has won five Gabriel Awards for Best Documentary or Public Affairs Programs, and is the recipient of top honors from the Public Radio News Directors, Radio and Television Digital News Association and the Virginia Association of Broadcasters.

Nov 12, 2015