Picture a weather-perfect long weekend marking the unofficial start of summer and you’d have Toronto’s Victoria Day holiday. My husband and I decided to seize the moment and take advantage of the idyllic conditions with a long walk — far from the pervasive concrete of our urban neighbourhood.
We headed for our local public transit station where we encountered unexpected track and switch work. The place was hopping and as we waited for our rerouted subway train, we fell into conversation with a transit operator. We talked about the drivers, women and men, who work for the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) and their job challenges — one being the life altering, traumatizing experience tunnel operators face when a “jumper” leaps in front of a moving train.
As tragic as this is, another challenge drivers face is personal assault and it’s on the rise. Rude passengers all too frequently display discourteous, anti-social behaviour.
Coincidentally, the next morning just as I was leaving for work, I heard on the news that a TTC bus driver was attacked with fireworks after Victoria Day celebrations. According to reports, a man approached the open door of a bus and threw a Roman candle at the driver. A senseless act of meanness.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at work, started opening emails and the first thing that jumped off my screen was the subject line from the New York Times: When Passengers Spit, Bus Drivers Take Months Off
In the article, the journalist considers if passenger behaviour is the result of frustration with the system or reflects a general decline in urban civility. I guess after repeatedly hearing about transit drivers as targets, I tend to side with the “decline in urban civility” theory. Sad but true. That said, I remembered The Baltimore Workplace Civility Study:
“As organizations have flattened and gone ‘casual/informal,’ there are fewer norms as to what constitutes proper business behavior. Research has shown that most acts of workplace violence originate with uncivil behavior. Moreover, an uncivil work environment can have an economic impact on an organization. Employees encountering workplace incivility have reported less commitment to their company, lost productivity, and some have left their jobs.”
The study makes a strong case that incivility in the workplace is very costly.
No wonder so many job postings typically read: Exceptionally strong interpersonal skills required. I encourage you download this report and share it with your co-workers. Download the study.