National Stress Awareness Month: Incivility in the Workplace

Stress awareness graphic

April marks National Stress Awareness Month and coincides with a very challenging time as we all adjust to physical distancing during a global pandemic. Stress is defined as your body’s reaction to an event that stimulates you. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations and finding strategies to reduce stress and cope with these events can positively impact your wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.

According to several studies, stress in the workplace is a large contributor to incivility. Factors such as failure to complete projects, looming deadlines, extensive work hours, and long stretches with no time off can cause stress. As a result, employees may display inappropriate actions both to fellow colleagues and customers, especially if they perceive their efforts to be unrecognized and unappreciated.

How can you help to reduce rudeness in the workplace? According to the author, Christine Porath of Mastering Civility, once people understand the importance of civility, they need to up their game to create a place where kindness is the norm and relationships thrive. Here are five strategies that can assist employees to get along better and be more proactive in cultivating positive relationships in stressful situations:

  • Share resources
  • Share recognition
  • Share gratitude
  • Share feedback
  • Share purpose

It also may be helpful for staff to become more mindful about the link between stress and incivility and develop strategies to effectively cope when feeling overwhelmed. Please see below for helpful resources:

Additionally, the NIH offers several resources that can assist managers and employees in dealing with stress and resolving conflict in the workplace, including the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and the Office of the Ombudsman. While the EAP focuses on confidential counseling and enhancing and maintaining the well-being of all employees, the Office of the Ombudsman provides confidential, informal services related to coaching, facilitation, and mediation.

If incivility escalates into harassment or other patterns of inappropriate, unproductive, or other disruptive behaviors, contact the NIH Civil Program. The mission of the Civil Program is to foster civility within the NIH community.  Civil can also assist with coordinating trainings about civility and respect in the workplace as well as share best practices for cultivating a positive environment.

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