The High Costs of Instigated Incivility in a University Department of Nursing

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Mary Anne Schultz, PhD, MBA, MSN
Department of Nursing, CSUSB, Upland, CA, USA

Workplace incivility is a phenomenon thought to be endemic in healthcare and educational institutions. In fact, bullying and other forms of incivility are thought to be common in most arenas in university life, including schools and departments of nursing. Clark and Ahten (Stokowski, 2011) define uncivil behaviors as those which range from distracting and annoying to those which are more nefarious and are described as aggressive and potentially violent. A range of human costs are reported that are consequences of incivility including low productivity, counterproductivity, low job satisfaction and high turnover intentions (Karim, Bibi, Uh Rehman & Khan, 2015). When incivility is instigated, the costs to the system include very high opportunity costs, most notably evidenced by markedly increased forensic documentation, cross-department defensive strategizing, significant increases in face-to-face team and individual meetings as well as time and psychic energy devoted to planning and evaluation of restorative interventions. The purpose of this presentation is to: explore these consequences of incivility, in terms of real costs and opportunity costs, in university departments or schools of nursing, particularly when managers are the targets of these toxic behaviors.

The literature on incivility is replete with reports of related conceptual issues, such as academic freedom; exploration of correlates of incivility such as age, educational level and leadership styles; empirical reports of associated illnesses; and descriptions of retaliation efforts such as acts of sabotage. The estimated real costs of workplace violence are thought to be in the billions yearly (Hutton, 2006) yet no attempt to systematically quantify the nature and distribution of these costs is yet reported in the literature.

Interventions to change a culture of incivility from leadership and systems perspectives are discussed (Sherner, 2015) with an emphasis on the key role of the Nurse Director as the vortex of restorative activity and decision-making. An emerging business product line, evidence-driven management interventions packaged to restore the integrity of work groups, is described along with criteria to evaluate their worth. The Nurse Director who perseveres to restore the health and conduct of a faculty group speaks from a unique perspective when she or he themselves begins this journey as the key recipient of ruthless and calculating behaviors.