New Civility Intervention Improves Workplace Morale

Uncivil and hostile work environments impede productivity. Employees rely on a healthy exchange of ideas, energy and knowledge to be able to work together in a positive and constructive way and uncivil attitudes and behaviors stifle that atmosphere. “Research has linked incivility to numerous negative outcomes for both individuals and organizations, such as stress, anxiety, depression, lost productivity, and even retaliation against the organization,” said Michael P. Leiter of the Psychology Department at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, and lead author of a recent study examining the effects of a civility intervention. “The prevalence of incivility in organizations calls for effective interventions to enhance the quality of working relationships.”

Leiter and his colleagues implemented the CREW (Civility, Respect, and Engagement at Work) intervention to hospital workers to determine if it would improve morale and overall job performance. “The theoretical basis of our approach builds on the proposition that people benefit psychologically from belonging to social groups that confirm self-worth, security, and trust of others,” said Leiter. “Poor interpersonal relationships at work, including incivility, tend to be related to negative employee outcomes, such as decreased mental health (depression, anxiety), job stress, increased somatic symptoms, and emotional exhaustion.”

Nearly 1000 hospital workers were surveyed before the CREW intervention and again six months after. “The results demonstrated a positive impact of the CREW intervention: Among CREW intervention units, there were meaningful improvements in health care workers’ reports of unit civility, burnout, job attitudes, management trust, and absences after 6 months of the intervention.” Leiter said, “The results pertaining to absences were especially encouraging in that improvements in attendance have major cost savings implications for hospitals.” He added, “CREW has the potential to increase reciprocity in social relationships through its focus on developing the social behavior of all members of a working group. By improving these social behaviors, the process has a potential to further positive work interactions that are self-sustaining. The results support the utility of planned improvements in these aspects of work, and they demonstrate that improving workplace civility has broad implications for employees’ relationships with work.”

Leiter, Michael P., Heather K. Spence Laschinger, Arla Day, and Debra Gilin Oore. “The Impact of Civility Interventions on Employee Social Behavior, Distress, and Attitudes.”Journal of Applied Psychology 96.6 (2011): 1258-274. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • DocLC


    December 7th, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    This is something that I would really like to try to implement at my office. I have a bunch of great workers, but there are times when they are uncivil to one another and I know that this unrest carries over to how they treat the patients too. The bad thing is that so many of my employees have been there for so long that they think that they can get away with just about anything. I want an upbeat and positive energy in the office, and while this happens most of the times I know that there are others where we could all use a little improvement.

  • Betty


    December 8th, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    I’ve worked in quite a few firms and I do attest to this.The workplace environment has a huge role to play not only in your productivity but also in deciding how you behave with people even outside the workplace.I left my previous job due to this very reason and I hope the HR department at workplaces take a note of this.

  • parsons


    December 8th, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    I can’t work in an environment where co-workers are convinced that they don’t need to be civil and cordial with one another. I want to work in an environment where there is a commitment and dedication to working as a team, anot just every man for himself. I think that when you have that kind of “me” mentality in the workplace then morale is bound to be low and so is productivity and creativity. Who needs that? I would be super willing to undergo this kind of training at work if it meant more smiles and a better attitude all the way around!

  • Lesley


    December 9th, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    I really cannot work even one day in an environment that most offices seem to have nowadays.I consider myself lucky to be in the job I am now because everybody is just so pleasant there.There’s no stupid thing happening or people trying to outdo each other in an non-healthy way.I guess that just pushes all of us to perform that little extra bit and thereby helps the company.

  • h. dawes

    h. dawes

    December 9th, 2011 at 6:34 PM

    I can’t believe we have to tell adults how to behave in the workplace. When I’m in charge, you better believe that I will shout you down until you’re in tears if I hear you being nasty to a coworker for any reason. There’s nothing like getting a taste of your own medicine to nip that in the bud. Zero tolerance.

  • b.v.


    December 9th, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    @h. dawes: Two wrongs don’t make a right. I get what you’re trying to do, but you’re going about it in a way that will land you in hot water one day. You shouting at them will only inflame the situation for all parties concerned.

    Go through the proper personnel channels before you find yourself on the wrong end of a complaint. That way it’s also on record which may prevent a reoccurence.

  • Isaac Joyce

    Isaac Joyce

    December 9th, 2011 at 8:23 PM

    A hostile work environment of any kind isn’t only going to harm morale. The repercussions can be widespread. It can set your employer up for a lawsuit if a staff member feels the need to resign because of it, or even get you in legal trouble with the state over bad working practices. A harmonious workplace is the easier road to take.

  • daisy m.

    daisy m.

    December 9th, 2011 at 8:58 PM

    It’s the responsibility of your boss to ensure you’re satisfied with the conditions you’re working under and that includes staff relations. If he doesn’t want to act upon any complaints then he may soon find that he needs to do the work himself. If my coworkers were pedantic, condescending, rude scumbags I would be looking at the job listings on a daily basis. Fortunately they are not.

  • D.Elvin


    December 9th, 2011 at 11:59 PM

    Any kind of work would require an atmosphere that is conductive to the work in my belief and in a hospital wherein there is so much of room for depression, having rude co-workers can really become a big problem not only for your work but for you in general!

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