When Incivility Leaks into the Customer Interface.

Recently I received a voicemail message from “Mary”, an HR Director stating that she would like to discuss the possibility of bringing in Bar-David Consulting to provide training in her organization. She did not mention the type of training that was needed. Given that we provide a number of training services, ranging from Respectful Workplace to Leadership Skills, Change Management and Resilience, I was curious to learn what was needed in this case.

When I called back, the receptionist answered in a somewhat abrupt fashion. In an upbeat way I asked to be connected with Mary. Without uttering a word or friendly gesture, the receptionist transferred me to the requested person. There was no trace of the customary “I’ll transfer you now” or “please hold on the line” or even “please wait a moment”. I was left hanging in the silence that followed my own words.

At that very moment, while I was waiting to be connected to Mary, I had a pretty educated guess about the type of services I’d be asked to deliver.

If you were in that same situation, what would you have guessed?

If your answer was “respectful workplace training” or “incivility training”, you’d be one hundred per cent right!

Incivility in the workplace has a nasty habit of showing up in the most undesirable places, such as customer service. It took only one routine interaction with the receptionist for me to know that had I been seeking the type of services that this company offers, I would take my business elsewhere.


Discussion Questions:

Inspired by the work of Pearson and Porath, I define workplace incivility as seemingly insignificant rude, discourteous or insensitive behaviour, where the intent to harm is unclear. And it can have far reaching effects.

In your team, consider any or all of the following questions:

  1. Are we ever ‘guilty’ of allowing little acts of incivility that are part of our team culture, spill over into our interface with clients, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders?
    1. What are the specific ways in which this happens?
    2. What is it about our culture and environment that enables us to act in these ways?
  2. What is the impact of these behaviours on our customers and other stakeholders’ experiences? What is the impact on our brand? (Be specific.)
  3. What are three things we can do to change the current situation?

For more ideas on creating respectful workplaces or to discuss your training needs, please contact us – we’d love to hear from you.


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