Beat Down Burnout

Incivility = Bullying

I talk a lot about bullying. Recently, I’ve come across several people who talk about incivility, particularly incivility in the workplace. I thought to myself, what is the difference between workplace bullying and workplace incivility? Perhaps, I should investigate.


The Oxford Dictionary defines incivility as 1) rude or unsociable speech or behavior, and 2) and impolite or offensive comment. It’s rudeness. It’s disrespect. It’s a common problem in the workplace that affects risk management and your bottom line. Examples of workplace incivility include interrupting, teasing, disrespectful jokes, isolation, humiliation, aggressive looks and ignoring, to name a few things. I’ve seen these same things as examples of workplace bullying. These words and actions constitute verbal and/or psychological abuse. If it used to make someone feel “less than,” then it is bullying. The main problem with calling it bullying, is that the bully may not realize what they are doing. There is no intent to make someone feel belittled.


When people show up for work, there need to be rewards on both sides. The boss, or the organization, is getting a workforce. The staff have a very real need to be rewarded with more than money. As a staff member, I can tell you that I need to be paid in respect and acknowledgement, in addition to their salaries. They need to be seen, heard, valued, and recognized for their expertise.


We’ve all heard that a valued employee works harder and stays longer (develops loyalty). The truth is that it’s so much more than that. The NIH did studies in healthcare providers that proved that workplace incivility not only affected job satisfaction, but staff wellbeing ( Do you want a healthier workforce? Be nice to them. They also did studies that proved incivility was associated with lateral violence ( Lateral violence is one of those things that makes DEI and DEI training difficult and tricky.


There’s more. Harvard Business Review (HBR) published an article on the cost of workplace incivility ( and here are some of the things they found: a 48% of affected employees intentionally decreased their work effort; 80% lost work time worrying about the incident; and 66% said that their performance had declined. Often, when someone is being treated poorly, they pass it on to their clientele. HBR found this to be true 28% of the time. 28% of staff to whom you are rude, are taking it out on your customers!


In healthcare, there are additional concerns. Clark, et al, showed that incivility leads to medical errors and poor patient outcomes. (Clark CM, Springer PJ. Academic nurse leaders’ role in fostering a culture of civility in nursing education. J Nurs Educ. 2010;49(6):319–25). This is where it affects risk management, patient satisfaction, community standing and your financial bottom line.


People don’t come to work to suffer verbal abuse and intentional slights. We all spend a considerable amount of our lives as work hours. It would be so much more fulfilling if we also felt seen and heard, if we were acknowledged for our expertise, and if we were treated with respect.  I’m not asking for people to be coddled. I’m asking for respect. That’s a whole different ballgame. Being civil is just good business.


Many people who exhibit incivility may not realize they are doing so. They may not understand how they come across. They don’t hear what others hear in their tone of voice. They don’t see what you and I see in their facial expressions. This can be overcome. You can learn to communicate in a way that doesn’t tear down those around you. I have a system that is structured to raise your communication, trust building, and emotional intelligence. If you or someone in your organization needs this training, contact me here, or email me at with the subject Incivility. Take this opportunity to reduce risk and rebuild trust within your corporation.

Nanette Nuessle