I recently had a really unfortunate incident at the office where a colleague of ours just burst out at everyone. The person in question was in a quite senior position which further intensified his problematic behavior. As a person climbs up the corporate ladder he is expected to be more calm, composed, and most importantly inclusive in his workplace conversations. The situation however was entirely opposite there.
Initially, I was angry but when the empath inside me took over I realized that the problem is much deeper than one angry employee and a single unfortunate incident. The disease of workplace incivility runs deep inside the recesses of today’s corporate world. We may not notice it, but it is there and is responsible for a major portion of annual employee turnover. What is being called the Great Resignation in the United States and with different names throughout the world is clearly a reaction to this same unacceptable workplace behavior. Add this to the growing discontent of employees with their employers and we’ve got another pandemic on our hands. The effect has certainly been amplified by the current COVID-19 pandemic but it is nothing new and has always been hiding behind the big cubicle-shaped shadows.
About my earlier unfortunate incident -overthinker as I am- I started thinking about the possible reasons behind my colleague’s behavior. Perhaps somebody might have bullied him or behaved the same way with him and that’s how the tension amplified and percolated through. Or it might be a behavioral trait that doesn’t allow him to see a different viewpoint than his own. Whatever may be the case it is quite evident that he was a part of a chain and was just passing the current along. I’m not trying to justify his actions. I’m just saying that he is not the first and certainly not the last to pour out his rage on his colleagues.
Yes, ideally you can stop the puck with yourself and make sure nobody else gets hurt because of the negative energy you have consumed. But not everybody thinks so deep and not everybody wants to. A large portion of the working population is composed of simple people who want to come to the office and get their work done in the shortest time possible. They want the highest amount of benefit while giving the smallest amount of effort. So when somebody else creates a roadblock in this short path to success, they lash out displaying the most basic of the animal instincts we possess. It is but natural for a human as well as an animal to attack anybody who comes between them and their goal. It is also true however that you can’t just get up and hit everybody who tells you that your work might take some time.
While almost all workplace incivilities can be explained with basic psychology it doesn’t mean that it should be brushed off as the basic nature of humans. My imploration to think deeply about peoples’ actions doesn’t necessarily imply that you should sweep harassment at the workplace under the carpet. To get rid of a poisonous tree you don’t just cut the leaves but get rid of its roots so that it can’t grow again. Similarly, when something like this happens you need to raise your voice not because you are angry or want reparations but it is your duty to help eradicate the main problem. To do that you need to analyze what might have caused the said outburst.
First and foremost the basic nature of the employee in question could be itself aggressive. Such people who I call Prime Alphas believe in dominating others. They converse with lofty and sophisticated language aimed at establishing their superiority beforehand. They aim to supersede their surroundings and if that is not possible they can quickly resort to raising their voice and name-calling. I know because I have seen a lot of these dominating buffoons in my time. Infact as I was growing up I also had a mean streak and my first response to every problem or threat was of rage. But I have learned to control my rage and channel it better, as can anyone. You are a human for god’s sake, not a monkey. You don’t have to follow the animal instincts pre-programmed inside your forebrain. God gave you a complex brain for a purpose. Use it and let others live in peace.
Secondly and what is becoming quite common nowadays is the ‘Rage Culture’. In a world disabled by a two-year-long pandemic and weakened by diminishing economies and growing public debts, the competition for companies selling products is unprecedentedly high. In this cutthroat atmosphere, employers can’t tolerate even one mistake and while it is good for business it is not at all good for the cogs of the machine. You must have heard about the 2-minute washroom breaks for Amazon employees and a record number of layoffs for major MNCs during the Coronavirus pandemic. This all goes on to show that companies like Tata and Mahindra who take care of their employees are rare. Still, rarer are those who treat their employees with respect and treat them like family.
Consequently, the past few decades have given rise to a culture of shouting and demeaning the people beneath to get the work done. One search about companies like BYJU’s or Unacademy and you’ll realize how common it is for managers to shout at their reportees and cut off their incentives or even salaries if the unrealistic sales targets set by the higher management are not achieved. To these people, I can only say that the use of fear to keep your employees in line may work for a short time. But as soon as the fear is removed and your subjects have a better option they will make sure you’re destroyed even if that comes at a great personal cost. If you don’t believe me you are welcome to read about any of these people – Adolf Hitler, Napoleon, Nero.
To be honest, it is not about being polite to get your work done or avoiding pointing out someone’s mistakes. We spend on average eight hours a day, forty hours a week, and a better part of our lives in our office. If you are spending that time demeaning and scolding your colleagues or reportees you may end being the most efficient employee but you’ll certainly never be a good human being. If your employees don’t greet you outside of work and don’t treat you as a friend because of your behavior you’ll probably be remembered as the one guy who used to run around shouting at people for no reason. So in case you don’t want to be shunned by your colleagues after retirement and don’t want to be remembered as a deplorable human being, you should consider changing your behavior.
Till then be safe from workplace incivility and remember to stay healthy.