Two properties of space – dark energy and dark matter – have polar opposite qualities. One repels, whereas the other attracts. “While dark matter pulls matter inward, dark energy pushes it outward.” This is a great analogy regarding people.
Those representing dark energy repel others, because they are in fact repelled by themselves. Self-loathing and lack of esteem projected outward create a prickly exterior. Projectile hatred results in embarrassment for onlookers (who are victims), and for those who simply cringe at seeing people behave poorly.
If their quills were retracted, dark energy forces would attract their compatriots. This begs the question: how to affect the transformation? Employees are for example forced to see the error of their ways when policy is thrust in their face. A civility policy that plainly defines acceptable behavior (and consequences for non-compliance) leaves a clear indication of what’s expected.
The concept of workplace civility was reinforced by SHRM’s recent endorsement, which suggests that awareness, training, and enforcement are a necessary trilogy in both preventing and curbing bad office behavior. Sometimes a big stick is the best antidote to playground antics. Not everyone who is left to their own devices is capable of acting in a civil fashion. Expecting the honor system from people who don’t know any better (or who don’t care) is a stretch.
Zero tolerance policy, modeling from the top, sanctions for social sins, and ejection of the incorrigible can reshape workplace culture from one of backbiting, negativity, and destruction, to one in which community and mutual helping are the norm. How different, uplifting, and exponentially more productive work would be if people felt accepted and supported by their peers.
Bullying is counterproductive to creating the Semco utopia, described by employees as “…a paradise in which no one wants to leave.” Workplaces that are not like this naturally can transform through concerted effort and support from those in charge.