If you show two groups lists of words, and include many rude words for one group, but not the other, what do you think happens on subsequent tasks both groups perform? The group exposed to the uncivil words is more likely to miss information, take longer to make decisions and put those decisions into practice. Does this experiment seem oversimplistic? Well, for a change, it is.
Incivility, or rudeness, makes people less motivated. Leadership researcher and author
‘Mastering Civility in the Workplace’ Christine Porath has spent a long time researching the effects of incivility in the workplace. Her comprehensive studies to show that 66% of people cut back their efforts, 80% have lost work time worrying about it, and 12% have lost their job because of incivility. Does performance really suffer? It certainly does. Rudeness hijacks our attention and diminishes our brain power. The effects are not limited to those directly on the receiving end of disparaging remarks, put-downs or teasing. People who are exposed to rude behaviour as a witness also show a drop in performance, up to 25%, and they are 45% less likely to offer ideas. Teams constantly exposed to rudeness don’t share information as readily, and they stop asking one another for help. These are hardly the kinds of behaviours we work hard to inculcate in our teams and organisations. If fact, we spent a ton of money trying to do the opposite.
Stress can be a trigger for rude behaviour, but why else would people be rude to their colleagues when it costs so much? (Cisco put a figure of 12 million dollars a year on it when they came across Porath’s research results). Perhaps some leaders still believe that nice guys don’t get ahead. But again, research shows that this is not the case. Most uncivil executives sabotage their own success. The reason for executive failure (according to work done by McCall and Lombardo while at the CCL), is that leaders who have an abrasive, insensitive or bullying style don’t tend to get helped out when they are vulnerable, in a position of weakness, and need something from others.
What do people want most from leaders? A bit of a respect. More important than recognition and appreciation, useful feedback, even opportunities for learning, says Porath’s global data from over 20000 employees. Those people that felt respected were 56% healthier, 92% more focused and 55% more engaged. They were also less likely to jump ship.
Sometimes we tend to over-complicate things. In this case, they are rather simple. Being civil to others at work directly and positively impacts performance. And it is not that hard to do. It is about smiling at people, saying hello, thanking people, sharing credit, small moments of pause, listening, showing a bit of personal interest, challenging directly from a place of respect. This concept is described by Kim Scott as radical candour and it came up in the Discipline of Innovation article published in the May Edition of Talent Talks as one of the four paradoxes for effective innovation: ‘psychological safety that requires radical candour’.
The leaders that perform best are known as smart and friendly, competent and warm. Small and civil actions lead to better outcomes, and they can roll up into bigger and longer lasting impact. Leaders have many touchpoints each day, but we can all exercise our civility muscles. Civility lifts people.
‘When we have more civil environments, we are more productive, creative, helpful, happy and healthy. Let’s put an end to the incivility bug, after all, it pays.’ – Christine Porath
Watch Christine Porath’s Tedx Why being respectful to your coworkers is good for business.