Rude Communications At Work

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about rude communications at work:

“Any suggestions for how to stop nastiness and rude communications in the workplace?”

I am a Process Leader in the claims dept. of a health insurance company. Over the past 6 months or so we have been overwhelmed with an abundance of claims. With a new product that we went live with in January, it caused our paper claims volume to go up and our processing time to go down.

During these past few months, the atmosphere as been null to say the least. Employees are nasty and speak rude to one another. I won’t deny that they are stressed and overworked as overtime has been mandatory for some months now.

What I would like to know is how do I make it better or possible for the atmosphere to change? What can I do or give to my employees to change their behavior towards one another? How can I stop rude communications between co-workers?
Process Leader

Dear Leader:

Communication is an on-going process. Nastiness begets nastiness and verbal abuse escalates in spirals of increasing sarcasm, volume, and body language. Physical violence has been found almost always to have been preceded by verbal abuse and incivility. Incivility sometimes has fostered withdrawal, festering hurt, and then explosion. Your pressure cooker so far only bubbles with nastiness, ill manners and rude communications between co-workers.

It’s time to take the kettle off the stove before it boils over. Calling time out is also a duty of a process leader. You do not have the authority to knock heads together; however, you do have the power to bring heads together of your work unit to look in the mirror—possibly to listen to themselves. What causes them to bark and bare their fangs? What annoys and frustrates working together? What can make their heavy work load lighter? These are process questions. Have you as a group taken time to make explicit the unwritten rules of how you function well and what is dysfunctional? Exactly what are the rude communications that have been happening and how should communications be instead? Have you together discussed the dos and don’t of effective communication?

These questions are what a process leader is there to facilitate—not mandate, but to help the work group set forth. Addressing the paragraph above cannot be completed in just one time out session. Nor did nastiness cloud the climate of your work space in one rainy morning. Rude communications at work become habitual because they are allowed to happen repeatedly.

Earning our signature WEGO is an on-going process of work group communication. That is how work groups earn the right to call themselves a team. Will you send us what you and your work group spell out to transform incivility to civility and stressed and strained co-workers who cheer each other on? Or what does not work? The hope and purpose of Ask The Workplace Doctors is this kind of learning from each other.

William Gorden
Ask the Workplace Doctors

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