So what can we do about workplace aggression?

Despite the large body of research that shows consistent negative effects of workplace aggression on targets and the organization, there is surprisingly little intervention research. So what can we do about workplace aggression? A recent intervention study shows that civility training seems to work. Leiter et al. (2011; 2012) showed that civility training not only decreases incivility, and improves civility by the end of the training, but that these effects continue to improve a year after the intervention is over. In their intervention study, Leiter and colleagues used the Civility, Respect, and Engagement at Work (CREW) training protocol developed by Veteran Affairs in the US. The training program involves getting top management buy-in (no intervention can be successful unless organizational leaders support it), and conducting an initial survey to assess levels of civility, incivility, and work attitudes. They then trained 41 units in a hospital system over a six-month period. The training involved approximately one hour per week that addressed a different topic each time. The team first taught employees to identify incivility and to understand its negative effects. They then conducted workshops on how to deal with rude behavior, how to support each other, etc. After six months, the research team conducted a second survey to compare the 41 units who received training to the control units (those that did not receive training) and found that incivility had decreased, civility had increased, and attitudes had improved over the six-month period. Even better, one year later they conducted a follow-up survey and found that several of the positive effects continued to improve. In particular, civility levels were even higher one year after the training, suggesting a positive civility spiral. It seems that being nice might actually be reciprocal!

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