choice Magazine

Beyond the Page Podcast ~ Navigating Workplace Incivility: A Coaching Guide to Improved Dynamics

November 14, 2023 Garry Schleifer
choice Magazine
Beyond the Page Podcast ~ Navigating Workplace Incivility: A Coaching Guide to Improved Dynamics
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Unlock the secrets to successfully navigating workplace incivility in a candid conversation with certified health and wellness coach, John O'Brien.

With over three decades of experience, John O’Brien is a seasoned expert in guiding
individuals through significantly stressful life situations and transitions by offering practical and actionable strategies to navigate them with ease.

Through his programs, John equips clients with tangible skills and concrete tools that empower them to swiftly reduce stress levels and enhance personal wellness leading to immediate positive transformation. John is an ICF ACC Certified Coach and Certified Health and Wellness Coach through the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches. In his spare time, John enjoys motorcycling, skiing, biking and further developing his ability in German. He also serves as full-time staff to his gifted cat, Shahdi.

In this episode, we dissect the subtle yet profound impact of seemingly innocuous but inconsiderate behaviors, the ripple effects of microaggression, and how all these factors into the bigger picture of office dynamics. O'Brien provides us with his expert insights, practical strategies, and tools to reduce stress and enhance personal wellness amidst negativity.

Our discussion dives deep into the mechanics of incivility, illustrating how to recognize these behaviors, when and how to address them, and the art of maintaining compassion in challenging conversations. O'Brien underscores the power of honest feedback and its potential to transform work relationships and environments. This episode will equip you with the knowledge and skills to deal with workplace incivility, empowering you to champion your clients' journey toward a healthier work life. Tune in and master the art of navigating challenging office dynamics!

Watch the full interview by clicking here

Find the full article here: https://bit.ly/BTP-JO23

Learn more about John  here

John has a special gift for our listeners. Please click here to find out more

Grab your free issue of choice Magazine here - https://choice-online.com/

In this episode, I talk with John O'Brien about his article published in our September 2023 issue.


Garry Schleifer:

Welcome to the choice Magazine podcast, Beyond the Page. choice, the magazine of professional coaching, is your go-to source for expert insights and in-depth features from the world of professional coaching. I'm your host, Garry Schleifer, and I'm thrilled to have you join us today. In each episode, we go beyond the page of articles published in choice Magazine and dive deeper into some of the most recent and relevant topics impacting the world of professional coaching, exploring the content, interviewing the talented minds behind the articles and uncovering the stories that make an impact. Choice is more than a magazine. For over 21 years, we've built a community of like-minded people who create, use and share coaching tools, tips and techniques to add value to their businesses. Of course, what we all want make, a difference with our clients. In today's episode, I'm speaking with certified health and wellness coach, John O'Brien, who is the author of an article in our latest issue. For those that are doing the video there is Humanizing Health care courageous coaching at a crossroads. John's article is entitled "Workplace Incivility ~ Its costs, and how coaches can help. And that, my friends, is on page 46 of this issue. A little bit about my friend, John. With over three decades of experience, John O'Brien is a seasoned expert in guiding individuals through significantly stressful life situations and transitions by offering practical and actionable strategies to navigate them with ease. Through his programs, John equips clients with tangible skills and concrete tools that empower them to swiftly reduce stress levels and has personal wellness leading to immediate positive transformation. John is an ICF ACC certified coach and a certified health and wellness coach through the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches. He's important. In his spare time. John enjoys, and this I did not know, motorcycling, didn't know that one, skiing, biking and further developing his ability in Deutsch, erkland-deutsch-fehren. German, for those of you that don't speak German. With a name like Schleifer, I better know a little bit something. He also serves as full-time staff to his gifted cat Shahdi. Did I say that right?

John O’Brien:

You said that right and Shahdi appreciates it.

Garry Schleifer:

Oh bless. And I have the good fortune of having known John for a long time through the Gay Coaches Alliance. We worked together on committees, et cetera, et cetera, and I'm happy and thrilled to call him my friend. Thank you so much for joining me today, John.

John O’Brien:

Oh, thanks for having me.

Garry Schleifer:

It's like old home week. All right, exactly. It's like old home week here. Yeah, okay, what are we talking about in today's committee meeting, John no.

John O’Brien:

Right right.

Garry Schleifer:

Okay, I know the answer to this, but why did you write this article?

John O’Brien:

I've worked with clients for many years, but in the past probably eight years, 10 years, have seen a significant rise in what I have thought of as kind of rude or uncivil behaviors. And then Christine Porath, who's kind of one of the gurus in the field of incivility, whose research really serves as the foundation for this work, presented at a conference. Just a funny aside, while she was presenting on incivility, a member of the audience, naturally was uncivil to her. So I thought, there it is in the moment.

Garry Schleifer:

Oh my goodness. Well, that person was there for a reason.

John O’Brien:

Correct, correct. So that really having a language for this and understanding more about it in this presentation I heard in 2017, caused me to look more deeply at this topic for how it was, you know, relevant to our society, but also to my developing coaching practice and work with clients.

Garry Schleifer:

Oh great. And what do you define as incivility?

John O’Brien:

In the workplace, people talk about it as kind of seemingly inconsequential but really inconsiderate behaviors that are outside what we expect, whether it's what people expect to behave in the workplace, and you can translate that to just to life in general, when people engage in behaviors that are that aren't necessarily intentional, like bullying, but are inconsiderate or rude and have an impact on the target of the behavior.

Garry Schleifer:

Oh, how does it relate to the term or to the experience of microaggression?

John O’Brien:

Ah, so I think. I mean I'm not an expert in microaggression, so for any our listeners out there who are, I just want to say this is the way that I think about it. I think some people put microaggressions in the category of bullying. Usually microaggression is something that's done without intention, you know, without awareness, which is more of what is uncivil behaviors. People don't mean to be rude or hurtful. So the short answer to your question is, I think about microaggressions as a subcategory of instability.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah, wow, and thank you for the distinction between incivility and bullying, and you wrote clearly about that in your article as well. Right, I mean, there was a simple example of leaving dishes in the communal sink at work, it's right. So you know, who do you think is going to clean that up, kind of thing, right, and just you know that kind of behavior.

John O’Brien:

Yes, and the hilarious thing is that's something from my own experience. There's a dish leaver in my office, so I get to not just spout this stuff in my wisdom, but I get to actually try to practice it in my own life.

Garry Schleifer:

You know it's so interesting that I have this article in hand and we just published it. I was just yesterday speaking with a client and I'm glad I had this at hand to remind me the possibilities of helping my client because she had, I think it was incivility, it wasn't bullying, it was just clearly an "I know better than you" kind of attitude thing and it was a shift. It was almost like a bipolar. So I'm not quite sure Jerry's still out yet on that, on what we need to do, and thank you for putting in here what coaches can do. So before we get into the practical aspects, you spoke a lot about that like in the title, ". You know it costs, so you know put that into this answer of how do you connect incivility and stress?

John O’Brien:

Okay, so it's a, I don't know if the right term is a bivalent, but it's a sort of two ways or chicken and egg kind of approach here, because that experiencing incivility from others creates stress and as the instances of incivility mount up, the person who's kind of the target, who's experiencing it, their stress is going to mount. So there's that effect. But there's also the effect that the more stressed people are, the more likely they are to engage in uncivil behaviors.

Garry Schleifer:

Oh, wow, the gift that keeps on giving.

John O’Brien:

Right. I think there's a lot, especially a lot of work in leadership assessments that talk about, like the Hogan that talks about who are people when they're at their worst, like when they have what are called derailing behaviors or sort of stress related negative behaviors, and I would think about incivility as one of them.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah, Wow. You wrote about how coaches can help and I'm just curious about what can we do or what can like what happens to us. What can clients do on their own? Let's say they're between coaching or something like that, any things that pop to mind?

John O’Brien:

So you're saying, like if a client experiences something on sort of an episode of incivility. Well, you know, I think that sometimes the thing to do is to try to process that with someone else that knows the "perpetrator or the person that was uncivil to determine, depending upon what the what the instance is, whether or not it's something that's worth addressing. So, for example, with my dishes in the sink, example, which is a chronic issue in my office, but we're not here to talk about. But okay, I mean, how much of an issue I've. I have sort of taken a low level response to that right now, but for so something like that it may be not worth. Maybe just worth sort of talking to someone else and processing, okay, who might be doing this and is it worth addressing. In some instances it's like it's not worth addressing In another instance in which perhaps it is worth addressing. You know there's a whole lot to unpack there, but my brief advice would be take some time to consider is this person who has engaged in uncivil behaviors open to feedback and are you in a position? If it's someone who's a boss of yours, they may or may not be open to feedback and sometimes bosses aren't right. So you really have to just determine okay, is the whoever is the kind of perpetrator that's engaged in this behavior? Are they actually open to feedback? And if they, if they aren't, then you have to figure out how you're gonna be able to manage your own frustration with that. But if they are to take the opportunity, don't send your response or frustrations in an email. Ideally it's an in-person or video or perhaps phone conversation but in which you talk to. I always advise people talk to people about the idea that I really believe you didn't mean this to be hurtful or offensive, but when you said X, that was really hurtful or frustrating. That's kind of the general outline I would offer to people, but to think about yourself as empowered to be able to talk to the person, depending upon the circumstances.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah, truly it's funny. You know what? You remind me of the example you gave of coaching a leader whose direct reports were claiming that he was being uncivil, and he did it to you. Yes, yeah, basically see, that's what you're talking about.

John O’Brien:

Right, it's like the song in the 80s "Whoop there it is" right. The other challenge I think I'll just say for coaches in that instance is we want our clients to like us and we want our clients to feel supported and encouraged, but sometimes that also means challenging behaviors and we don't necessarily win friends with our clients sometimes depending upon their level of openness and he was not very open when I initially pointed this out. I mean it was like it was tense for the rest of the session after that but, to his credit, he went away and came back and thought about it.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah, coaching happens between the sessions. echnically, we're not paid to be their friends. Of course we all love them and I was always given the advice, coach risking to be fired. Don't hold back, don't worry about getting fired. And to your example, it's like he's a better leader and more likely respects you for having the hood spot to do it, to say it and talk about it. Weird question, but do you find that the people that are talking about incivility are usually the perpetrators or do we all do it at one time or another, depending on the people, the situation?

John O’Brien:

I mean the old expression we have seen the enemy and it is us. I think we all engage in uncivil behaviors and that's just a part of being human and we don't mean to be kind of inconsiderate and hopefully by recognizing that, you know, we want compassion from other people when maybe we make mistakes that we can kind of bring that same level of compassion to what other people do as well. But to your question about do I talk more with kind of perpetrators of instability or targets or people that experience it? And I would say I'm usually talking more with people who are targets because they're more likely to be talking about the instance versus, I mean versus someone who's coming in for some other reason, and then they just maybe happen to make an offhand comment that is problematic or that gives me a hint, like when someone says you know, yeah, that my, sometimes my employees don't like my behavior. Well, it's like dig here. Yeah, exactly, right.

Garry Schleifer:

Give me the ammunition here, right yeah.

John O’Brien:

And the thing is it's hopefully, you know, and in the instance that I wrote about, I mean that was part of what this leader was wanting to understand. He's like I don't get why people get offended, or, and so you know, and he did, I think, appreciate that in the end.

Garry Schleifer:

It goes back to not being their friends. We're there to tell them the truth, point out what we see, reflect back, like all our tools, as a coach.

John O’Brien:

Yeah, and people can sometimes say that they want the truth, but they don't really want the truth or they struggle with the truth or and again the truth as we're seeing it right. Yeah the truth as we see it.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah, I just asked this earlier, but are there different types of incivility?

John O’Brien:

What a great question. So yes, there's interpersonal. This is what we probably typically think of is, you know, gossiping or snide remarks in you know meetings, about people or just in meetings. So there's the interpersonal incivility, but I think a growing and perhaps even where prominent variation now of incivility is cyber incivility Right, you know, I mean, and I think being fueled right now by social media.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah, and the relative anonymity of it.

John O’Brien:

Right. But think about even in, for example, Zoom meetings like this. In large Zoom meetings, people will be messaging each other about the presenter or other people, or even, just in the public forum chat, be making negative comments, rude comments, uncivil comments, and I think that maybe the computer environment gives people this, if not sense of anonymity, a sense of distance that makes them feel safer to do things like that. So there's the interpersonal, there's the cyber, and then you know the victim, what's called the victimless, which is just my example of dishes in the sink. Or leaving a copier jammed and just walking off so the next person that comes they can't use it. Or leaving this much coffee in the group coffee machine.

Garry Schleifer:

That much stuff in the fridge and there's not another container, so you have to go shopping for it. No, no, that's great. Thank you so much. And so so shifting again. So you spoke very clearly about the cost to work reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and resignations, quiet quitting. We've heard a lot about that toxic work environment. Talk to me about the ripple effect. Where does it go after that, like, what's the next ripple beyond the work environment?

John O’Brien:

So well, certainly, let me just say that that there can be these episodes of incivility and effects in a boss-supervisee relationship, that then the ripple effects go out to other people on the team or, depending upon the level at which this is happening, it sort of spread to ultimately an entire department or even organization. You know there are that. It can be kind of cancerous and that infects and creates really toxic environments, not just in certain departments, which is possible, but then in the larger organization. But I think what you're also getting at is then, beyond the environment, people then carry their frustrations from these behaviors home, and, oh boy, they are expressing directly or indirectly their stress and negativity to others in their work environment. They may be coming home and very tearful or upset and distressed, and then their partner or family members having to comfort them. That can lead to also health concerns and you some things like headaches or chronic stomach aches, ulcers and that sort of thing. But you know even and, this is a point I make, is that not just in this article but other work I'm doing that the increase in stress can ultimately even lead to more chronic illnesses like cardiac disease or cancer. That's what stress does over time.

Garry Schleifer:

It's becoming less of a surprise to me that when people come up with sorry when they experience these long term illnesses, that it's related to their life somehow right. It's not just the physical environment, it's also the mental environment.

John O’Brien:

Absolutely Right.

Garry Schleifer:

Yeah, yeah, wow. This is great. What else did you want to say that you didn't have room for in the article? I have a feeling there's tons more.

John O’Brien:

Well, yes, I mean, I think that there's a lot to say about the idea of what to do if you have experienced incivility, and as well as some other thing I didn't write about in this article, but it's about how uncivil we can be to ourselves. Oh, interesting, and sometimes the people that are being uncivil to themselves then are more likely to be rude and inconsiderate to other people. So this may be a shameless act of self promotion, but to that point, I've actually completed a book manuscript that my intention is to publish in 2024. That really gets at this question about how do you manage instability that you're engaging in against yourself or how do you manage kind of episodes of incivibility from other people, and it's a mindfulness based approach.

Garry Schleifer:

Well, I look forward to that and you're going to keep this posted and we'll let our audience know about that. Yes, I sure will.

John O’Brien:

I sure will.

Garry Schleifer:

What else would you like our audience to do as a result of this article in this conversation? So keep an eye on the book.

John O’Brien:

Keep an eye on the book, right, right? Yeah, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. I'd love to network with other people who may have interest in this topic of incivility, and I think you're going to have a link for my, a link for my LinkedIn.

Garry Schleifer:

Okay, yes, we will.

John O’Brien:

Okay, good, Okay, and people are welcome to go to my website, which is activatesuccess. org not dot com. Activatesuccess. org, and if you go to the resources section, there's a number of mindfulness activities, and I also have something that's called the Wall of Wellness, which is this is a free gift, free that if people want to, they can download themselves, and it's just a single sheet that has a what looks like a wall, a fence with different fence posts and it's a way for people to rate where are they in terms of their wellness right now and what are areas of strength and what are areas that need to be developed.

Garry Schleifer:

Wow, that's cool. Look forward to that. Yeah, Activatesuccess. org. John O'Brien LinkedIn and we'll have those attached to this episode as well as the article. John, thank you so much. I'm really glad that you took up the mantle to talk about this. It's a very interesting topic. I hope you don't be a one hit wonder right for us again. Maybe something comes out of your book that you might want to write about. We're happy to put it into consideration for publication, and then we'd have to talk again.

John O’Brien:

Yes, yes. Well, thank you so much for encouraging me to write for choice. It's been a pleasure to do so and to do this podcast and, yeah, I look forward to future collaborations. So thank you, yeah my pleasure, thank you.

Garry Schleifer:

That's it for this episode of Beyond the Page. For more episodes, subscribe via your favorite podcast app, and we know that a lot of people subscribe to us through Apple and Spotify. Just type in the word choice and coaching and you're most likely to see all of our episodes. If you're not a subscriber to choice, you can sign up for your free digital issue of choice magazine by going to choice-online. com and clicking the sign up now button. I'm Garry Schleifer. Enjoy the journey to mastery. Thanks, John.

John O’Brien:

Thanks Garry.

Workplace Incivility and Coaches' Help
Understanding and Addressing Workplace Incivility