The Price of Hate in the Workplace

Hate crimes appear in the news frequently. The fatal stabbing of two men who tried to stop a hateful rant on a train in Portland, Oregon, and racial slurs spray-painted on Lebron James’s home are just two recent examples.

In the workplace, employers have policies and guidelines that prohibit overt discriminatory behavior based on religion and race, as well as on age, gender, national origin, and other protected statuses. Yet incivility, even if it isn’t based on a protected status, can still be a serious and costly problem.

In 1998, 25 percent of workers reported that they had been treated rudely at work at least once a week. By 2011, that figure had increased to 50 percent. Incivility can include door slamming, screaming, teasing, blatant disregard for people’s time, nonconstructive criticism, and insulting language. The cost of these types of behavior comes in many forms: lost work time by employees avoiding an offender, a decline in commitment to the employer, and intentionally decreasing work effort, time, and quality. Additionally, creativity suffers, performance and team spirit deteriorate, and organizations lose customers.

No matter what its root cause, leaders can help curtail hateful behavior by being aware of and managing their own actions. Set expectations for how employees are expected to behave, reward good behavior, and penalize bad. Consider the organization’s hiring practices. Only 11 percent of organizations consider civility during their hiring process. Employers won’t have to pay a price for bad behavior if they don’t hire it into the workplace.