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. 


This entry was posted in Blog, Harassment, Leadership, Respectful Workplace, Workplace Incivility. Bookmark the permalink.


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