It’s never been this bad before. That’s the observation of Houston attorney Monica Fitzgerald, a partner at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, who has tackled the issue of professional incivility from the boardroom to the courtroom.
Tensions created by issues like masks and vaccines have brought out the worst in some people. “Employees sometimes mistakenly believe that they have a right to free speech in the workplace,” she says. They don’t. Their employer, a private company unassociated with government, has the right to establish policies that require a professional etiquette that may require biting ones tongue to prevent offense. Free speech applies to government limitations, not the boss, who is entitled to set the standard of acceptable conduct. “We want our employees to be professional,” says Fitzgerald, as an example of employer instructions. “And prohibit denigrating, abusive and harassing behavior and any type of retaliation for someone who reports that behavior.”
If you see something, say something, she advises. Office emotional abuse often goes unreported though there are many spectators.
photo: Getty Images