Imagine a young man, Peter, fretting over an upcoming work presentation. He shuffles his notes, looks around the room, and double and triple-checks the computer monitor with his PowerPoint slides. At last everyone arrives and Peter takes a deep breath and launches into one of the most important presentations of his young career. As he stands at the front of the room, he notices his supervisor with head bent over his phone — texting.
Dr. Christine Pearson and Dr. Christine Porath define incivility as “the exchange of seemingly inconsequential inconsiderate words and deeds that violate conventional norms of workplace conduct” (The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It, 2009). What’s especially key in the definition is the “seemingly inconsequential”: these behaviours may not even be recognized or acknowledged by perpetrators.