Since 1975, anger management has been the treatment of choice for person-directed aggression, road rage, simple battery and other acts of verbal or physical aggression. Anger management is currently used in schools, jails, prisons, probation, parole, mental health, social service organizations, as well as business and industry. The United States Postal Service is the largest, and probably the most successful, organization offering anger management to its employees.
During the last ten years, incivility, which is defined as deliberate discourtesy, has become a subject of concern in higher education, government, business and the legal profession. The difference between inappropriate expression of anger and incivility is difficult to discern. Both are costly in terms of its impact on morale, productivity and legal liability.
Incivility is a business concern that has been in existence for many years because of its impact on the workplace environment. It has existed in both small and large businesses. It crosses the line from sales organizations to manufacturing companies. It exists in service industries and in professional businesses. You can experience incivility dealing with subordinates, peers or superiors. If you look hard enough, you can find it almost anywhere. But what is incivility?
Beside the fact that incivility is a bad thing, it is a significant expense to the operation of an organization. Victims of incivility can suffer from increased stress, anxiety, exhaustion, sleeplessness, depression, anger and embarrassment. Loss of work time, sickness and workmen’s compensation claims can be the result of incivility in the workplace. Many times, employees would rather quit their jobs and move on to another job than report an incident. Hostile work environments subject the organization to costly litigation.
Attorneys, paralegals, legal secretaries and legal staff work in a consistently stressful, competitive office environment. Realistic and unrealistic deadlines, hectic schedules, adversarial and combative bantering, highly-charged attorney or client meetings, to name just a few, are the backdrop to the legal habitat. Incivility is born in that workplace, the office or the firm. Workplace contemptuousness is brought to life by attorneys, paralegals or coworkers.
Bar Associations in Illinois, California and Utah have called for the training of lawyers in “civility”. Management Training Organizations have developed training in “etiquette” designed to improve civility in the workplace. The Joint Commission of the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations has mandated that all hospitals establish written policy relative to the handling of “disruptive physicians”. It is estimated that 5% of all physicians exhibit disruptive behavior from time to time. To date, incivility is beginning to pervade our political landscape and most other areas of our society.
Staff development training is needed to recognize what constitutes incivility, so everyone can be more cognizant and controlling of their behavior. Each individual must manage his or her own stress, frustration and anger. We must honestly and thoroughly examine our behavior, and change it if necessary. All employees should be required to treat coworkers with the same respect, dignity and fairness with which they treat clients, customers or patients.
Organizational Anger Management Training for Incivility can best be provided in small groups of 15 or less. Each participant should be given an assessment to determine his or her level of functioning in recognizing and managing anger, stress, assertive communication and emotional intelligence. Client workbooks, which cover these topics, are then the focus of the training.
George Anderson, MSW, BCD, CAMF, CEAP
Diplomate, American Association of Anger Management Providers
Anderson & Anderson®, The Trusted Name in Anger Management