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Are You "Hiding" A Few Co-workers On Facebook?

The third annual Weber Shandwick/Powell Tate/KRC Research incivility poll finds the majority of Americans dislike the current state of our political discourse. Yeah, I can see that, especially in an election year. But what do we think about civility in the workplace? Now this is where things get interesting.

First, the good news. This year's online incivility poll of 1,000 adult Americans tells us that workplace incivility is on the wane, with fewer people in the poll reporting it. In last year's civility poll, 43% had experienced incivility at work compared to 34% in this year's survey. Maybe all of the troublemakers have been laid off? Anyway, yay! Go America! Fly the friendly skies!

Now, for the bad news. We're taking our incivility into cyberspace instead. Cyberbullying is all the rage these days, and it's not just for teenagers anymore. Why bully a co-worker in person when you can unleash a torrent of misspelled snark on Facebook or Twitter? It's happening, people. And with a whole new generation of cyberbullies gearing up to enter the workforce, it could only get worse.

But don't get too depressed, because this year's Weber Shandwick/Powell Tate/KRC Research incivility poll reports that we Americans are less likely to take online incivility sitting down. No, we're standing up for ourselves by pressing the "delete" button. More than one-fifth (23%) of us have quit our jobs over incivility, but more than one-third (39%) of Americans have recently "de-friended" or blocked someone online.

Clicking "yes" on the are you sure you want to do this?? button on a social media site raises a very 21st-Century management question, though: what should managers do when an employee de-friends, blocks or "hides" the co-workers they find to be rude, obnoxious or uncivil? De-friending and blocking are very public cyber-responses to a fellow co-worker, but "hiding" a co-worker so that you don't have to read her sarcastic comments and useless insights is a down-low way of standing up for oneself on the job. This way, an employee still looks like she's striving for a sense of cyberteamwork even if she can't take any more of a co-worker's subtle cybersnark, boasting and/or bullying. Yes, I'm sure I want to do this! I now hide you in the name of sanity.

Of course, hiding co-workers or outright de-friending them could lead to productivity losses in a time when employers are asking employees to join social networks for teamwork and astroturfing purposes. Employees are just one, big, happy cyberfamily these days, and it's all fun and games until someone doesn't get the "urgent" memo written in 140 characters or less. What do you mean you didn't know? So-and-so wrote a status update about it!

You didn't know because you're hiding this co-worker's updates because she's a mean, rude, uncivil you-know-what and the Howard Beale in you just couldn't take it anymore. So you've dropped her from your network, sort of. It's a good thing you're finally on the same page now so the project can get done, eh? Oh, come on now. Don't hide your joy.

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