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Lynne Curry: Can't we all just try to get along?

He sneaks co-worker's food from the refrigerator. When questioned, he denies it loudly and buries the evidence in the restroom trash.

Because she wants to be a senior supervisor, she feels herself above doing work delegated from her supervisor and as a result puts off completing the supervisor's assignments until her supervisor does the work herself in frustration. When the manager intervenes, she explains she was just so busy with other priorities when in reality she spends hours internet surfing.

He arrives late to work whenever the manager is off-site, leaving his co-workers to pick up the slack.

And you wonder why we can't all just get along.

According to a Workplace Civility Study co-developed by the John Hopkins University and the University of Baltimore, workplace incivility, in the form of actions or comments employees and managers consider rude, disrespectful, dismissive, demeaning, inappropriate or threatening have become the norm.

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed stated they witnessed uncivil behavior occasionally to frequently and 11 percent admitted they had personally been occasionally or frequently uncivil. Only 13 percent of those reporting uncivil behavior saw it as an isolated incident, with 41 percent seeing it as a regular pattern.

The five top actions ranked as most uncivil by high percentages of respondents included taking a co-worker's food from the refrigerator without asking (93 percent); refusing to work hard on team effort projects (90 percent); shifting the blame (88 percent); not saying please or thank you (88 percent) and reading another's mail (88 percent).

The survey documents that most workers don't handle incivility directly. Only 44 percent of the respondents confronted the problem person while twice as many, 88 percent, discussed the incident with family and friends outside the workplace. Eighty-five percent discussed the incident with other co-workers and 70 percent considered changing jobs.

Despite the low number of workers who handled the situation directly, 63 percent thought less of their organization for allowing uncivil behavior and 37 percent of the respondents decreased their effort at work in response to uncourteous behavior.

An overwhelming 85 percent of those surveyed felt that efforts to improve workplace civility would increase their productivity. Interestingly, although 85 percent discussed the situation with co-workers, only 23 percent of those who responded sought help from anyone within the organization who had the ability to resolve the situation.

Where does this leave you if you want civility at work?

If you're a manager, you need to take organizational responsibility, particularly as fewer than one out of four of your employees may directly seek your help. When managers ignore problems, they fester. As a result, your employees' job satisfaction and productivity suffer.

As an individual employee or manager, if you want civil treatment, you may need to step out of your comfort zone. If someone treats you poorly, talk directly to the person with whom you have the problem.

Although others may deserve a greater share of the blame than you, you may need to look in the mirror. How do you contribute to the problem? Are you a softie who lets others walk on you? Or do you react to game playing manipulators, encouraging those who play "gotcha"? Because you can't fix others, look at the part you play in workplace dysfunction.

If you're someone who vents or snipes at others, stop. When you point your finger at others and complain about their actions, you become their toxic person. Complaining about your boss or coworker and painting yourself as the victim resolves nothing.

We all need to move past talking to those who agree with us that we've been wronged and address issues with those with whom we have issues. Ultimately, our organizations can't fix things unless we take action.

-- Lynne Curry is a management trainer, consultant and president of Alaska's The Growth Company Inc. in Anchorage. Email: lynne@thegrowthcompany.net.

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