I am not talking of pesticides and other toxins in our food and water, or the pollutants in the air we breathe.
I am referring to the ever increasing toxic atmosphere caused by rudeness and incivility that is creeping into our society and our daily lives.
This economic meltdown is not helping matters; everyone is stressed out in some way or other. Bullying, disrespect and rudeness is rampant in the workplace; this is costing both employees and employers.
Workers are less effective and efficient, they accomplish less in a given amount of time and they make more mistakes and waste more in materials. Workers call in sick more often, and experience burnout faster.
Employers do not help matters; they fail to address low morale in the workplace and more often than not contribute to it. They make the situation worse with threats both implied and overt. Managers under stress themselves from their bosses, take on the attitude that a worker can quit because I can fill his vacant position before he reaches the door.
Most workplaces are now free of tobacco smoke; laws have been put in place to ban smoking. However, banning verbally abusive behavior is less easy; it is harder to recognize and eliminate and in many ways it is worse. A person can walk away from a smoke filled environment, but rudeness and incivility is contagious, it gets spread on down the line and multiplies.
On the commute home it manifests as road rage, and a person having a heated confrontation on a cell phone while driving is at the highest level of distraction. A person brings it home to his family; it extends into our schools. It goes viral on the Internet; it spreads to sporting events.
The situation is dire and needs to be addressed immediately. We cannot wait for the economy to turn around; in fact the low morale caused by workplace abuse is actually slowing the recovery.
So what can any individual do about it? The answer, stop buying into this trend. Make an effort to say something nice to someone; if that is too much to handle then at least don’t contribute and pass on the abuse. Remember what your momma told you, “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.”
If you are at the receiving end of verbal abuse just say, “You have a blessed day,” and walk away. Think about it; by doing that you have done yourself and everyone else a huge favor. You have defused the situation and even if it has no lasting effect on the perpetrator, it has relieved your stress level.
If nothing else this is good for your own health. Stress will ultimately manifest itself as physical ailments; cancer, heart issues and strokes.
Get friends and coworkers to see what is happening in your work environment; lead by example, others will notice you are happier and less stressed. Envision a negative free workplace; if people can create a smoke free workplace, they can create a verbally safe workplace.
Just as those who don’t use cigarettes are harmed by second hand smoke; innocent bystanders are harmed by a verbally hostile environment.
Opt out of the abuse; remember that ultimately no one can offend you with verbal abuse unless you choose to be offended. Become an army of one in the fight against rudeness and incivility.
Footnote: This is a re-write of a piece by a good friend of mine, Mitch Carnell, on his Ethics Daily site. I would like to add that cyclists, who constantly run red lights and blast through stop signs without even slowing, are always quick to point out that there is no harm as it is cars kill people not bicycles.
That is not the point; it is rudeness.
One would not push in line at the supermarket or theater, don’t do it in traffic. It perpetuates anger and road rage against all cyclists. Don’t point the finger, and say cars run stop signs and red lights all the time. Anti-social behavior by one group is no excuse for another individual or group to engage in rudeness and incivility.