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The Loss of Civility during Covid?

If you Google “Civility and Covid-19,” in less than one minute you will receive over 2.4 million results which include news stories, organizational guidance, and research studies at the governmental and university levels exploring the increase of incivility in society since the start of the pandemic. Examples of this behavior include people yelling at hospitality workers for minor issues, free use of discriminatory and/or harassing language, and physical confrontations with strangers. The pandemic forced varying levels of isolation, increased fear for some, angered others, and exaggerated divides between people of differing viewpoints leading to current behaviors.

The behaviors observed in general society unfortunately do not stop at the workplace door. Many organizations are encountering these behaviors with their employees. Leaders and HR personnel are surprised at the number of reports of inappropriate comments, actions, and behaviors their organizations are experiencing. Employees who previously would have thought before making an inappropriate joke or insensitive comment seem to have lost their filters.

As we all hope these behaviors will subside and civility, with some common sense, will return to daily life, your organization cannot wait for this to occur. Waiting could result in long lasting, damaging consequences.

Poor workplace behaviors can result in:

Unhappy workforces: Gallup’s most recent engagement survey shows that only 36% of U.S. workers are engaged in their work and workplace. Though this is the highest level since 2000, it still means that 64% of workers are not engaged at varying levels. Gallup’s surveys have historically shown the quality of the work environment contributes to employee engagement.

Resignations: As the ongoing “Great Resignation” shows, employees in poor work environments no longer want to remain and growth in the job market makes leaving for a better situation much easier. Employees are seeking environments that are flexible and supportive with strong leadership.

Lowered productivity: When employees dread their work environment, your organization is going to feel their pain. From poor attitudes to increased absences, employees may continue to show up, but your organization may be losing its focus, creativity, and excitement.

Increased employee discipline: The growing lack of civility may lead employees to engage in behaviors that they would have previously thought were wrong in the workplace. From inappropriate jokes to raging arguments over political or social views, employers are put in a position to investigate and address these situations, which leads to increased stress on leaders to enforce discipline and possibly terminate employees.

How can you protect your organization from these outcomes and maintain a positive and healthy environment?

· Remind employees of the organizational mission and values

· Provide training on proper workplace behavior and organizational expectations

· Recognize kindness and teamwork in addition to productivity

· Offer opportunities for team members to reconnect and learn about each other

· Support mindfulness and mental health needs

· Encourage reporting of inappropriate behaviors through a safe and confidential process

It has been said that often people do not need to be taught but reminded. As we emerge from our homes and group pods to rejoin society and our workplaces, it is important organizations do not assume their once happy and cohesive staff know what to do as they return to face-to-face interactions. Leaders need to be proactive and supportive. Employees need opportunities to remember how to socialize in a healthy way and the support to address the difficulties they have or currently face as we all move forward to a more positive time in our history.

TBP provides organization and workplace investigations. We help you implement best practices, DEI initiatives and recruiting strategies and provide customized training. To learn more about our services, you can reach us at our Pittsburgh corporate office at: (724)799-8170. Visit our website at or email us at

Reference: Harter, J. (2021). U.S. Employee Engagement Holds Steady in First Half of 2021. Gallup.

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