Workplace Incivility: Definition & Overview

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  • 0:04 Definition
  • 0:28 Examples
  • 1:07 Possible Causes
  • 2:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Sometimes, the workplace is not a positive place and can be downright uncivil. In this lesson, you'll learn the definition of workplace incivility, see some examples, and gain an understanding what can cause it.


Workplace incivility can be defined as deviant workplace behavior of low intensity that can include such behaviors as being rude, discourteous, impolite, or violating workplace norms of behavior. People engaging in uncivil behavior may not necessarily have bad or harmful intent. However, you can think of workplace incivility as a type of antisocial behavior.


Many workplaces are replete with examples of incivility. You are probably familiar with some of these common workplace incivility examples:

  • Rudeness
  • Treating a subordinate like a child
  • Berating a subordinate or co-worker
  • Making unfounded accusations
  • Gossiping
  • Excluding co-workers or team members
  • Interrupting people
  • Texting during a presentation
  • Jamming a printer or copier and letting someone else deal with it
  • Use of demeaning language
  • Creating unnecessary and irrelevant controversy
  • Mocking a co-worker

Possible Causes

Scholars have proposed several causes for workplace incivility. One major cause can be stress and anger due to the current work environment, such as increased workload, job insecurity, and organizational change, resulting in more responsibility and less resources. In fact, even casual workdays can add to incivility. People tend to behave less formally when they are dressed casually. In other words, you behave more formally and respectfully when in a suit and tie as opposed to jeans and a t-shirt.

Technology may also be responsible for an increase in workplace incivility. Technology has made it more difficult for us to separate work from our personal lives. We are chained to our work through emails, faxes, and smart phones. Since we have access to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we often feel obligated to constantly be working at some level. This adds to our level of stress because we don't get downtime to relax and recharge. We become quicker to anger, take offense more easily, or have a tendency to be rude.

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