Dealing with Incivility and Negativity in the Academic Workplace

Introduction: If asked, most organizations will state they are committed to having a respectful workplace, where staff can share ideas and do their work without bullying, intimidation, or outbursts of incivility and negativity. Yet according to Harvard Business Review, 96% of employees have experienced strong incivility at work; 48% state they experience it weekly. And according to some research, academic environments are particularly ‘good’ at fostering incivility, negativity and bullying. Depending on where one sits on the organization chart, most employees at academic institutions, whether faculty or professional staff, can relate personally or have been witness to these negative displays at work. Incivility and negativity (and of course the more extreme forms such as bullying, harassment and intimidation) affect morale, productivity, reputations, even the students’ experience and the ultimate success of the school. As with any problem, you have to ‘name it, to tame it’. So this very real academic phenomenon must be recognized, described, and managers must be trained and committed to deal with it.

Brief Program Description: This three hour program explores the phenomenon of incivility, negativity and bullying in the academic workplace. It begins with the obvious, but important, conversation on what the school’s goals are with respect to the workplace and how everyone should be (or not be) treated. The session moves to an opportunity for refection where sub-groups can confidentially share brief stories that have happened to them or close colleagues that involved disrespect, intimidation or bullying. Next the participants are led to some extensive research from the book, Faculty Incivility, outlining how/why academic environments create these incidents. The session next explores various concepts and strategies to help participants address these incidents or ‘nip them in the bud’ before they occur. Finally, there is some ‘skill practice’ on scenarios that relate to disrespect, bullying and incivility.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Clarify the School’s goals/standards on the work environment and why it matters
  2. Relate personally to experiences of being intimidated, bullied or shown severe disrespect
  3. Understand why these behaviors are often more likely to occur in academia than in the private sector
  4. Learn various concepts and strategies that relate to helping participants, at all levels, to deal with these situations when they occur
  5. Commit to ‘being a part of the solution’ and helping to reduce/eliminate these problem behaviors from our school