Professionalism-1Unless you’ve been avoiding the news over the past year, you’ve probably noticed that the national conversation – and in many cases behavior – has become increasingly negative. From the White House’s terse Tweets, to a growing number of hate crimes, to the now-famous memo that stoked the fires of gender bias, respect, empathy and good manners seem to have gone out the window.

As I work with my corporate clients, I’m finding that this bad behavior is also increasing in the workplace. Hostile work environment, bullying and harassment claims are on the rise. Because of our current political climate, some people think they now have license to make personal attacks and behave in a way that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable. Lack of professionalism is, sadly, becoming normalized.

Take the example of Uber, whose “aggressive, unrestrained workplace culture” was described in a New York Times article:

“Interviews with more than 30 current and former Uber employees, as well as reviews of internal emails, chat logs and tape-recorded meetings, paint a picture of an often-unrestrained workplace culture. Among the most egregious accusations from employees, who either witnessed or were subject to incidents and who asked to remain anonymous because of confidentiality agreements and fear of retaliation: One Uber manager groped female co-workers’ breasts at a company retreat in Las Vegas. A director shouted a homophobic slur at a subordinate during a heated confrontation in a meeting. Another manager threatened to beat an underperforming employee’s head in with a baseball bat.”

This culture ultimately led to an investigation, the firing of several executives and the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick, who, as the top executive, had set the tone for the culture.

Work environments like this are especially challenging for those responsible for HR issues, especially when the tolerance or example of bad behavior starts at the top.

Next time, I’ll provide some tips for maintaining or bringing back professionalism in your organization.