Our blog helps you expand your understanding of latest research and current workplace challenges.

Wanna be Rude? Pas de Problème… Just Pay More

At La Petite Syrah Cafè in Nice, France, the price you pay for your morning coffee fix depends on your civility level.

Yes, you read it right.

The image of the restaurant’s blackboard below tells it all:




Patrons who just say, “a coffee” pay 7 Euros per cup of coffee.

Those who say, “a coffee, please” pay 4.25 Euros.

And those who go the distance and say “good morning, a coffee please”? Well, those folks pay only 1.40 Euros for a very same cup of coffee.

According to the online magazine The Local, what began as a joke to try and reduce the rudeness of stressed and hurried lunchtime customers, resulted in people being super-polite, more relaxed, and smiling more.

Civility is about those little gestures that make everyone’s life more pleasant – the hellos, please’s and thank you’s are a great place to start. This is true for La Petite Syrah, and it is equally true for your workplace. Civility from customers is great. Civility towards customers and colleagues is equally great, if not greater.

And as you already know, when civility is not there — when the other side of the coin settles in the form of incivility, there will be lots of ripples in the pond. People can get mighty upset, and even retaliatory.

Instead, why not use humour to address things, just like the good people at La Petite Syrah chose to do? As the saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

So here are a few questions you might want to consider:

  1. What is one insight you gained from La Petite Syrah’s initiative? How will you use this insight to boost civility on your team?
  2. What are the top two things you teach (or would teach) your children about civility? How do those teachings apply to your workplace/team?
  3. If you saw someone at work behaving in an uncivil fashion, would you intervene? Why or why not?
  4. What is one bad habit that you possess in regards to this issue? What will it take for you to begin taming this habit?

As always, good luck on the journey! 

And do get in touch, anytime!


The Art of a Good Revenge

It ain’t pretty but it’s true: when people velcro themselves onto en experience where they feel they were treated in an uncivil manner, they often seek revenge. They engage in getting-even actions that are intended to balance an imaginary ledger.

Remember my last blog entry, “why bother saying hello?”. It examined how people get reactive when someone skips a greeting.

In reality, this dynamic goes quite a bit deeper.

When a person is upset by someone’s incivility, his or her getting-even activities will tend to be in proportion to how serious they think the other person’s ‘offence’ was. So when a colleague doesn’t say hello, they begin by exacting a punishment that is similar in intensity to the original offence. (“You didn’t say hello? Well, I won’t say hello either!”).
Justice Goddess 000017878996

But over time, if the first person continues to be a greeting-offender, the affected person will up the ante – - they’ll add  supplementary getting-even tactics to their original actions. In addition to not saying hello to that no-good person, they might throw a bit of gossip into the mix, or perhaps even the occasional little work-related sabotage. In other words, a chronic offence will require an elevated getting-even response that will satisfy the affected person’s sense that they are adequately balancing those invisible justice scales.

There’s no shortage of creative strategies, but good old tried-and-true revenge strategies can always be relied upon to give one that sweet sense that precious justice is being adequately served: spreading the word about the person’s inconsiderate ways, ‘forgetting’ something just when someone needs it, sabotage (the kind that’s juicy enough to make an impact but subtle enough not to get you into trouble), ignoring requests, or ‘working to rule’.

Meanwhile – have you too noticed this? – the person who is engaging in executing justice via these even-the-ledger activities is utterly blind to the fact that his or her own behaviour is itself a form of min-aggression that constitutes workplace incivility. They say that ‘justice is blind’ – indeed it is.

if you are part of a spiralling cycle such as this, you find yourself having tremendous difficulty freeing yourself of the entanglement of feelings and actions involved in its dynamics. And if you are in management, it is practically impossible to sort out who started what, when, why and where. You might get better results by avoiding getting into the history of events and just stepping up to the plate and holding people accountable for professional and civil behavior going forward.


We’d love to hear from you –  get in touch anytime.


“Why Should I Bother Saying Hello?”

Participants in our workplace incivility workshops sometimes say: “why should I say hello to a colleague who doesn’t bother saying hello to me?”. In other words, the old eye-for-an-eye principal, or what researchers described as The Spiral Effect: one act of workplace incivility leads to a retaliatory one, which leads to another mini-aggression act of incivility.

When we’re really honest with ourselves, it’s not rocket science to realize that our not saying ‘hello’ in response to their not saying it, is in itself a form of min-aggression.

Same is true if your response to their no-hello is to provide them with a greeting that’s imbued with a sarcastic, chastising tone. This is when you words convey a greeting but your tone says: “Let me teach you those manners that your parents obviously forgot to impart on you”. In this case, everyone might be better off if you keep silent instead of engaging in this passive-aggressive ‘greeting’.

So here are the top five reasons why you should be polite and courteous even when that other evil-rude-terrible person does none of it at all:

  1. Incivility damages the workplaceNecessity is the mother of invention, and that’s how the concept of ‘manners’ came into the world. Quoting from my friend John’s mother: “Manners are meant for use with people you don’t like (or don’t know)”.
  2. There’s good reason for the saying: “An-eye-for-an-eye leaves everyone blind”.
  3. You’ll like yourself better when you come from your higher, generous self rather than from a nit-picky retaliatory place.
  4. You’ll be contributing to a work environment that feels better for everyone. That will feel good to you and to everyone around you. Instead of being part of a workplace that makes you want to linger in bed in the morning, you’ll leap forward with a spring in your step and a smile on your face.
  5.  It’s a good idea to follow what sages, across religions and cultures, have suggested through the ages: do unto others as you would have them do unto thyself.

 On  a different note – an invitation:

On February 26th (tomorrow), join me for the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s town-hall webinar on the new National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.  I will be sharing the virtual podium with Emma Pavlov, Senior Vice President at University Health Network (UHN), who will be sharing inspiring information from their journey as Canada’s largest health care provider in the arena of respectful workplace (I will chime in with my two cents too).

It’s FREE, and if you can’t make it, you can listen at another date. Click here for details.


And as always,  don’t be a stranger –  get in touch.

We promise to always greet you with a nice ‘hello’ when you connect.

The Teflon-Velcro Incivility Dance

Incivility requires thick skinWorking hard at finishing my upcoming book on incivility (I’ll tell you more about it another time), I thought I’d share pieces from it from time to time. Here’s one:

When incivility happens, people respond to it in one of two ways: Teflon or Velcro.

The Teflon approach will protect your sanity and resilience. And the Velcro approach? not so much.

Say, for example, that Frank makes a sarcastic comment to you about your work, in front of a client and another co-worker. (This definitely qualifies as incivility).

With a Teflon approach you essentially let the matter slide right off you, leaving you unaffected by the event.  Because you have an excellent relationship with Frank, you may not even notice or register the behaviour as problematic to begin with. Or, if you did think of it as inappropriate, you will brush it off by telling yourself that this comment doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, or that Frank intended no harm, or that you  have more important things to deal with than worry about every little impolite behaviour. In other words, with the Teflon approach, you possess a ‘thicker skin’ to begin with, or you take cognitive action to reframe the situation in ways that help you avoid blame, hurt, or a sense of victimization. You simply move on.

To clarify: Teflon doesn’t mean that you don’t address things with the other person. You certainly might, but you will do so without laying blame or come across as an angry victim.

A Velcro attitude is an altogether different matter. Here, when an incivil behaviour occurs, you attach yourself to it both mentally and emotionally as if you were fastened to it with heavy-duty velcro. (If Frank is your uncivil boss, you are more likely to go to velcro).  You take it to heart. You get upset. You blame and judge the person who was uncivil. You obsess about it. You are tempted to get even (and often do).  You simply can’t shake it off. In our example, you could find yourself worrying about what the client and the co-worker now think about you, you may feel that Frank has betrayed you and question your friendship, you might begin recalling other little instances that bothered you over the past several years of working together, you’ll spend time talking about it the event other at work or at home, you will get angry at Frank or angry at yourself for having allowed yourself to be so vulnerable, you will feel lonely and anxious… you get the picture.

Much of the time, most people are relatively Teflon-ish. After all, there’s work to do and things to accomplish, and not every interaction or incivility needs to be taken to heart. But for some uncivil interactions, Velcro kicks in.  And as you already know, none of it is positive or constructive.

So for you…  when did you respond to incivility  in Velcro-ish lately? What could you have done differently, or even do now, to move more into teflon-land?

Please feel free to get in touch anytime.

If you are managing someone who is an abrasive leader, or if you are a manager who was told that you are abrasive - we are always here to help with a (free) perspective or input. 


Another No-No for New Leaders


Workplace Incivility LeadershipIf you’re taking on the leadership of a new team, or if you’re a newly appointed leader, there’s a tip I’d like to add to the three no-no’s for new leaders that I suggested here previously, in what turned out to be one of the most popular entries that this blog has seen since its launch in January 2007 (yes, it’s been that long). This tip is going to come in handy especially when you are altogether new to the team or, even better, new to the organization.

Here it is: Don’t lose your eyesight.

As a newcomer, your biggest asset is your clear eyesight and untainted canary (that internal compass that points you to things that aren’t right). With your fresh set of eyes, you will be able to see clearly all those respectful workplace issues and other problem dynamics that prevent your team from excelling and your stakeholders from getting the best service. Your sharp eyesight will show you where the team culture is skewed, where things are happening that should not be happening, how the work is affected by incivility, and where (maybe) respectful workplace is nothing but an empty phrase.

Like Hans Christian Andersen’s boy in The Emperor’s New Clothes, you will be able to question truisms and perceptions of reality, and along with that you will be well positioned to suggest new and better ways of doing things. Some prudence, of course, might come in handy. After all, not everybody likes it when the status-quo is challenged or a new Smart Alec appears in town, nor does everyone love workplace change (okay, that’s a bit of an understatement).

Your unobstructed eyesight and perceptive canary will lose their edge over time unless you diligently protect them from doing so. It’s simply human nature for this to happen. As you will get acclimatized, you will over time get inducted into the culture, lose your common sense and fresh judgment, and with it your ability to contribute a useful new perspective.

Happy New Year to you all – a year of great vision, on all fronts!

And as always, don’t hesitate to get in touch :-)

May the Road and the Wind

As the year comes to an end, I’d like to extend to all of you, my wonderful readers, a handful of heartfelt holiday wishes:

Be healthy and joyful, kind and honest. Embrace imperfection in yourself – and others.

Be an RHB – a Real Human Being.

And most importantly, in the words of an ancient Irish blessing that never ceases to inspire:


May the road rise to meet you,


May the wind be always at your back.


May the sun shine warm upon your face,


The rains fall soft upon your fields.


And until we meet again,


May God hold you in the palm of his hand.



See y’all in the New Year!



Best Phrase Ever for Unprofessional Behaviour

iStock - Hand with Stop 11960750SHow often have you stood there, searching for the right words to say to put the brakes on an unprofessional behaviour that was offensive or belittling and triggered your inner canary?

Chances are that (at least some of the time) you said something that made the situation worse. Or that you said nothing and then replayed the could’ve-should’ve record in your mind a million times.

So allow me to share with you a priceless phrase that will change all that. It’s a phrase that participants in my workplace incivility training sessions repeatedly say is helpful and practical.  It serves them faithfully and can do so for you too. Whether you are a leader who wants to effectively (and respectfully) halt an unprofessional behaviour, or whether you are an employee dealing on the ground with a ‘sticky situation’ or an abrasive manager – this phrase will do the job.

And here’s some good news: because of the way this phrase is structured, it reduces the probability of the ‘offender’ getting unnecessarily defensive. Instead of finger-pointing, it implies that all involved are in the same boat, trying to do their best to behave well. It allows everyone involved to save face.

And here’s an even better piece of news: you’ll be able to easily recall this industrial-strength phrase anytime you really need it, because it comprises of only four simple words. It is simple, simple, and did I say – simple.

The next time someone engages in unprofessional behaviour that makes you feel uncomfortable (a racist joke, a harsh comment, a dismissive gesture), use these dependable words:


“Let’s not go there”.


It’s as simple as that. These four words will bring the behaviour to a halt without shaming or blaming. And you can walk away knowing that you did not go along with the behaviour or condone it.

Try it right now, on your own:

Think of two or three situations that you wish you had handled differently, then say the four words out-loud. You can experiment with being lighthearted or dead-serious. You can try  different pitches (high? low?), or emphasize different words (“let’s not go THERE”, or maybe “let’s NOT go there”). Be quick as lightening, or slow as molasses…. you get the idea.

Are you ready? Okay then. Go ahead: “Let’s not go there”.


Please free to get in touch anytime – our team is here to help.



Workplace Incivility – Your Thinking Errors

Strange thing: organizations (and the leaders that run them) have no clue of how much workplace incivility really costs them. Leaders fall into thinking errors that prevent them from seeing (let alone actually calculating!) such costs.

For example, instead of thinking: “until their morning caffeine kicks in, my staff are grumpy. It’s just a part of life around here.”, ask yourself:  “what are the costs of customers turning to our competitor, where cheerful service is not dependent on caffeine intake?”.

And instead of saying:  “Two team members haven’t been on speaking terms for years. I’ve tried various solutions but there’s just too much history for things to change”, you may want to ask: “In what ways have the work processes suffered due to these staff not speaking to each other? What (annual) dollar amount can be placed on the inefficiencies, workarounds and wasted time that result from this conflict?”.Istock Man with Red-Green Arrows from Head

If you’re in a leadership position, sit down for a serious one-on-one with yourself to calculate the real cost of incivility on your team. Here are sample questions you could use:

  • Can I place a dollar value on the cost that this behaviour triggers? If so, what is it costing us?
  • Does this incivil conduct affect our team performance or productivity? If so, in what ways? Cost? One fun and eye-opening way of doing this is: ask yourself how many incivility incidents does one person on your team experience per week? how much does such an incident cost in terms of time spent on things such as venting about it to another colleague, time spent worrying about it, and time lost on reduced productivity or ‘going on strike’? then multiply the number of minutes per week by 52 weeks per year, factor in the hourly salary rate and the number of employees on the team. This together will give a you a sense of how much (at a minimum) incivility is costing you per year.
  • In what ways has incivility affected (or will likely affect) our ability to attract and retain talent? Cost?
  • How are our clients and customers affected?
  • Have we lost costumers or eroded trust? Cost?
  • How (specifically) does the uncivil behaviour affect innovation?
  • In what ways does current incivility violate our organization’s mission or values? What price are we paying for this?
  • How does incivility affect our team’s reputation within our the organization and with internal clients?
  • How are relationships with our suppliers / partners / alliances / volunteers/ neighbours an other stakeholders affected?
  • How (specifically) does this behaviour affect our brand reputation?

Please free to get in touch anytime – our team is here to help.

Trust the Canary™


Personal Canary helps detect workplace incivilityBack in the day, coal-mine workers would bring along caged canaries down into the dark mine tunnels. If poisonous gases were present in the air, the canaries would perish. Their death would alert the miners that lethal gases were threatening their own lives.

Consider this: somewhere inside you resides your very own, built-in, personal canary. Its job is to let you know when that invisible ‘line’ that separates between civility and incivility, right and wrong, has been crossed..

Here’s how your canary does it:

Whenever you witness (or perhaps are subject to) incivility or harassment, your canary gets activated. It manifests in the form of a strong inner sensation that tells you that something isn’t quite right. (Sometimes we refer to it as ‘a gut feeling’). It may come as a physical sensation, such as a pang in your stomach, or a a sudden and overwhelming sense of discomfort. While you may not be able to pinpoint exactly what is bothering you, you intuitively sense that something about the situation ‘isn’t right’.

For example, you might be taking part in a work-related conversation, when suddenly someone makes a nasty comment about a colleague who is not present. You are immediately flooded by overwhelming discomfort, accompanied by an inability to respond in the moment.lls you that something isn’t quite right. (Sometimes we refer to it as ‘a gut feeling’). It may come as a physical sensation, such as a pang in your stomach, or a a sudden and overwhelming sense of discomfort. While you may not be able to pinpoint exactly what is bothering you, you intuitively sense that something about the situation ‘isn’t right’.

Your gut has spoken, but your mind does not trust it.

Your canary has had hundreds, even thousands of years to develop its acute sensitivity. That gut feeling is the result of generations of your people and your family telling their young how to distinguish right from wrong, proper from improper. When your gut canary gets triggered, you may not always be able to describe exactly what is wrong, but like the ever-reliable coal-mine canary, it warns you that if something is not done, trouble looms.

So here’s the bottom line: Trust the Canary™. It’s one of the most crucial tools you will ever possess. (So much so, that I have decided to include the phrase ‘Trust the Canary’ in the title of my upcoming book, which will equip leaders with real-life strategies for dealing successfully with workplace incivility). Your Canary  helps you identify when you must take action to restore respect and civility. And if you are a leader in your organization, it is incumbent upon you to step up and do what’s right, just as all those generations in your family and culture would expect you to do.


Call us or connect anytime to get for any need or exploration with which we might assist you.

Organizational Culture – Farewell to Wishy-Washiness

David Morrison, Chief of the Australian Army, recently went to bat to defend the army’s values, principles and organizational culture.

When allegations surfaced that army men distributed on the internet material that is degrading to women, Lieutenant General Morrison posted a YouTube video, with a personal message directed at each and every army member. If you ever wanted to see a soldier fighting for what is right, this video might just about be the ultimate example. In it you’ll find a memorable example of a leader who has tremendous clarity about what he stands for and what will not be tolerated as part of his organizational culture.

The journey to creating a respectful workplace can be ambiguous and confusing. Over the years, many of you have relayed to me how difficult it is to know what action to take when a ‘bad behaviour’ situation presents itself. Unfortunately, most situations fall in that challenging ‘grey zone’, so much so that I once dedicated a blog entry to the unique challenges of handling fifty shades of grey.

Other times, you do know what to do but the organizational culture makes it difficult if not impossible to do the right thing.

What is often lacking is a clear vision and example from the top. In many organizations, the senior leaders themselves do not demonstrate civility and respect, and sometimes are outright abrasive (as revealed in our 2012 survey on abrasive leadership in Canada).

But Lieutenant General Morrison exemplifies how a senior leader can remove all wishy-washiness and make it crystal clear where he stands and what his organizational culture stands for. And in doing so, he makes it easier for every single leader in the organization, and every rank-and-file member, to know when the right thing needs to be done and to be confident that they will receive full support.

If, after watching it, you think that the video is worthy of discussion in your team, check out our When Bad Things Happen in Good Organizations Thought Booster – a (free) tool that offers meaty team-dialogue questions. As well, for an insightful legal perspective on the matter from one of Canada’s leading employment law experts, check out my friend and colleague Stuart Rudner’s blog on Canadian HR Law.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I now invite you sit back and enjoy this thought-provoking 3-minute video…. below, or at


As usual, don’t hesitate to get in touch for any need with which we might assist you – or explore our training or consulting services.


Access free learning tools, articles and other resources for you and your team.

REAL™ Solutions for Abrasive Leaders

Find out how you, as a senior executive or HR leader, can help restore the effectiveness of an abrasive leader.

REAL™ Training Services

Discover how our training programs will energize and grow your people.

REAL™ Organizational Solutions

Find out how we can help you with organizational development and initiatives.
Copyright © 2011 Sharone Bar-David. All Rights Reserved. Website by Geist Creative.