This is a guest blog by Amanda Langsley for our Community  Event on Civility and Leadership.  The event is on Thursday 4th March 2021 where she and Hazel McPhillips  will host a conversation on this topic. 


We have all experienced the ‘boss from hell’ or had that heart-sinking moment when we have found out we are working beside ‘that’ certain person. We have likely witnessed the rudeness of others to a colleague and felt uncomfortable but unable to intervene. It is also likely that we have all been rude to someone at work.

I am going to put my hands up and confess I am a very rude driver. I can get so annoyed with fellow road users that I actually make myself laugh at the ridiculousness of the strings of expletives that come out of my mouth. Usually, someone is slow and I am in a rush or someone cuts me up and my threat system is activated, I react with my emotional brain rather than my logical brain and tell them just what I think of them. I am in the safety bubble of my car, no one can hear my rudeness. I would never react like that to someone physically in front of me, or would I?

Stress, pressure, excessive work demand, being hungry, tired, thirsty all lower the thresholds of our threat systems making us more likely to snap. Snapping does not necessarily mean shouting and screaming, it can be excluding people, a facial expression accompanied by a sharp intake of breath, sarcasm. When I first learnt about the impacts of incivility courtesy of the brilliant Dr Chris Turner and Civility Saves Lives it deeply impacted me as a healthcare professional. Prior to this, I had just thought that incivility was unpleasant and difficult. It is both of these things, but more importantly, it is actually dangerous:

  • 25% of people experiencing incivility will take it out on service users
  • There is an average 61% reduction in cognitive ability for recipients of incivility
  • Bystanders are 50% less likely to help others after witnessing incivility

So, is the answer a zero-tolerance approach to incivility? When I heard the statistics above, I thought absolutely, this should not be tolerated, but then I got to thinking about what might be going on for the perpetrator.

To get the elephant out of the room there are two types of people that are uncivil, the first is the hopefully rare cohort of people that are plain intolerant, demanding, tricky characters in which such behaviour is ingrained, is learnt or has been rewarded over time. Then there are the people that snap in a pressure cooker environment and would be regretful if they realised the impacts of their behaviour.

This is an important issue that we should not brush under the carpet, we need to acknowledge the triggers of incivility, the impacts of incivility and adopt a preventative and restorative approach. But what would this approach look like?

Keen to hear your thoughts:


Book your free place and join the conversation