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Our Message

Scroll through the theory and some of the evidence we believe makes the message of civility and the impact of incivility so important.

Stack of hands


Everything we do for our patients requires teamwork.

It may come as no surprise by now, that good teams perform better and this leads to better outcomes.

We often think about what makes a good team; clear roles, good communication, a shared vision or goal come to mind easily.

Rugby Scrum

But how often do we consider the team culture in that? Feeling valued and respected as part of the team - do these matter?

The New Zealand rugby team believes so, so they have a "no asshole rule" that reduces rudeness and individuals "being a d*ck", because when it is all about them, it's not about the team. 

This is embedded in their team culture and has contributed to them becoming the most successful national rugby team in the world.

Volleyball Huddle

Why good teams matter in healthcare

The King's Fund Survey[1] identified numerous benefits from when staff perceived themselves to be in a good team:

     - Reduced Hospital Standardised Mortality Rates

     - Reduced patient complaints

     - Improved staff satisfaction

     - Improved staff performances

     - Better reported health of staff

So when we are in a team which values and respects us, the benefits impact us and our patients.

Medical Team

In other words; good teams save lives.

This is where we start to think about incivility and the impact it has.

Dog in Cone

What is incivility?

Incivility can be anything ranging from rude or unsociable speech or behaviour.

Importantly, it is as interpreted by the recipient.

There are many examples:

Shouting at someone, swearing, aggression (not necessarily towards someone), belittling someone, sending emails while in meetings, talking over others, being difficult over the phone, rolling eyes or tutting at someone. The list goes on!

Thoughtful look

What happens when someone is rude?

When someone is rude to us, it reduces our bandwidth; our ability to effectively juggle multiple tasks and conscious thoughts.

For example, on a good day, we can actively juggle 6-8 things, like remembering to pick up the shopping on the way home, remembering the important birthday next week.

But this also includes tasks for our patients, like chasing the blood results, ordering investigations, being able to consider differential diagnoses.

Therefore, rudeness reduces our ability to do our jobs, until all we can focus on is them. They are actively making us worse.

Thinking Man

The Impact of Incivility

This impact has a direct impact on the recipient, and this has been measured in the office place by Christine Porath[2]. She found:

     - 61% reduction in cognitive ability

There were also many other impacts:

     - 80% lose time worrying about the rudeness

     - 78% reduced their commitment to work

     - 63% lose time avoiding the offender

     - 48% reduced their time at work

     - 38% reduce the quality of their work

     - 25% took it out on others, including customers

     - 12% leave 

Liquid Drop

The impact spreads to others

The impact of rudeness spreads through a team like a ripple in a pond, impacting those who observe the rudeness too:

     - 20% decrease in performance

     - 50% reduction in willingness to help others

So it is affecting the function of others and their willing to work as a team.

It also impacts customers:

     - 75% less enthusiasm for the organisation

     - 66% feel anxious dealing with staff

This might prevent a patient asking staff for help, or reporting a symptom.

Hospital Corridor

Medical teams perform worse in the presence of rudeness

Riskin and Erez [3] demonstrated the negative impact of rudeness on clinical outcomes.

They conducted a Randomised Control Trial using resus scenarios comparing one with rudeness within the team to without.

When rudeness was present, there was an increase in diagnostic and procedural errors, and they were able to attribute more than 50% of this to the rudeness.

Brain Surgeon

Katz et al [4] showed how rudeness in a simulated surgical scenario reduced the performance of the anaesthetist by almost 33%.

Further to this, the anaesthetists were not good at recognising that they were performing worse - the impacts were going unnoticed.

Desert Road

When we condone rudeness in our teams, we accept poorer outcomes for our patients.


Practices change

Much in the same way medical advice changed around smoking, our practice must change around incivility and rudeness.

In the 1950s smoking would be actively encouraged to help treat TB as a way to open out the lungs.

As research and knowledge advanced, this changed.

Research and knowledge about the impact of incivility is in it's infancy, but there is already evidence to suggest the massive impact it is having on team performance and clinical outcomes.

Summer landscape

Opportunities are created

Recognising the impact of incivility is the first step.

The next step is acknowledging it and taking steps to change.

Whether that is within a clinical team, within a department, or within a wider organisation. 

The best time to change was in the past. The next best is right now!

Cute Kittens


1. The King's Fund Employee Engagement and NHS Performance Survey.

2. The price of incivility. Christine Porath.

3. The impact of rudeness on clinical team performance. Riskin and Erez et al. Paediatrics. 2015.

4. Exposure to incivility hinders clinical performance in a simulated operative crisis. Katz et al. BMJ Quality and Safety. 2019.

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