A person exposed to incivility (not a victim, just an observer) is 3 times less likely to help others in lab experiments. His willingness to share resources drops by 50% Worse, those who experience incivility first hand…
I didn’t call it incivility back in 1995, but the behaviors workers described as I gathered stories that narrated events behind organizational metaphors like “turf war,” “silo,” “back-stabber,” “pissing contest,” etc. sound awfully familiar. This research described ten “territorial games” that seem to be correlated with “incivility.” If so, I think it’s worth talking about territorial games again because how we characterize a problem completely alters the solutions we invent.
If we call it incivility then the “cure” might sound like individual training to increase mindfulness and self control. All good, but I’m concerned that most people are in very short supply of the additional willpower necessary. Not to mention the least civil do not seem interested in this kind of training.
If we look at the behaviors as a function of group norms, then the “cure” is to change the norms. My approach is to provide a map of how groups end up with “default norms” then help the group collectively reflect and choose new norms by design rather than default. Groups that share personal stories get there faster. It’s that psychological safety thing.
But what if the behaviors represent a sweeping cultural response to changes in the emotional tone of daily communications (perhaps the daily use of fear/uncertainty/threat stories to grab attention) then we have an epidemic on our hands. An epidemic that makes Trump’s incivility look “smart,” that makes people want to use the same tactics to protect themselves, and worse tells a story that civility is weakness even subterfuge.
No matter what we call these fear-based behaviors lets talk more about how we can make a difference, connect people back to themselves and each other.