Christine Porath is an associate professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University where she focuses on the effects of bad behavior within organizations and how leaders can create a more positive work environment.
Porath spoke about her research with Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up their Center for Government Leadership.
Q. How do you define incivility? What does bad behavior tend to look like in the workplace?
A. It's anything seen as disrespectful or insensitive. As far as examples go, there's just a huge gamut -- so it can be ignoring people's requests, asking or answering questions in a way that demeans others, talking down to others or belittling them, taking too much credit for collaborative work, spreading rumors about people or delaying access to information or resources.
Q. Can you give me some real-world scenarios from your research?
A. There are examples of a boss saying "This is kindergarten work" in front of others. Another one involved a boss laying off employees with his feet up on the table, not looking them in the eyes, not caring at all, and showing such disrespect over something that obviously was important to those people. That was one that I was really shocked about.