According to Christine Porath in a Georgetown University study, in 2016, 62% of employees were treated rudely at work at least once a month, a tendency that has grown steadily since the study began in 1998 where the number was 49%. What this means to business is this – if the trend continues unabated, every year, you can expect your leaders and employees to treat each other with more and more dismissive, demeaning, uncivil behavior.
The impact of this is significant. Inside organizations, 78% of employees experiencing rude behavior report being less committed, 66% show a decline in performance, and 47% find ways to intentionally spend less time at work. In addition, the impact spreads outside the organization as 25% of employees report that rude behavior in the workplace causes them to take out their frustrations and behave in like manner with customers.
So how can we change things and make our workplaces more civil and less rude? I’ve been reading the great book Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni who cofounded the Johns Hopkins University Civility Project. In this book, Forni lists 25 rules of considerate conduct, and while all of them are worthy of anyone’s time to study and incorporate in their day-to-day behavior, I have pulled out 10 of these as key behaviors for leaders in the workplace.
- Acknowledge Others. No one should feel invisible. Make eye contact. Greet people with “good morning”, “good afternoon”, etc. Use people’s names. Make people feel welcome in your presence.
- Think the Best. Most people are not trying to intentionally ruin things or do harm, try to assume positive intent. Until proven wrong, give the benefit of the doubt that people are trying to do the best they can with the resources and tools available to them.
- Listen. Stop focusing on yourself and your needs; instead, focus on other people. Don’t assume you need to solve anything, just hear and try to understand clearly what they are saying. Respect what others think and honor their right to see things differently than you do. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, just hear them.
- Speak Kindly. Be respectful in word and tone, particularly when delivering critical feedback. In addition, never gossip or speak unkindly of people when they are not present.
- Accept and Give Praise. It is said that one of the greatest things you can give someone else is a sense of their own worth. Praising the accomplishments of others and showing appreciation cost you nothing but deliver tremendous value. And when you are praised, a kind thank you is all that’s necessary. Gracious humility is a virtue.
- Be Agreeable. Be open to and look for opportunities where you can accommodate others, compromise, or simply allow someone else’s ideas to be implemented. Your way isn’t the only way.
- Respect Other People’s Time. Be punctual, end things on time, wait your turn to speak, show up to everything you’ve promised, and every time you fail to do so, apologize.
- Apologize Earnestly. Be clear about the error you’ve made and do not make excuses. Let others know that what you did was wrong and that you understand and regret the negative impact you’ve made.
- Accept and Give Constructive Criticism. Be clear about your intentions. If your intention is to help, then be helpful, however, if your intent is revenge or to manipulate things to your benefit, re-evaluate and walk away. When receiving criticism, assume the positive intentions of others. Be grateful ,not defensive.
- Don’t Shift Responsibility and Blame. If you are part of the problem, own it, apologize if necessary, and help in finding a solution. Trying to place blame rather than working to find a solution makes you an obstacle. Don’t be that person.
More civility in the workplace can benefit you, your teammates, and your customers and it begins one person, one interaction, one relationship at a time. Be the spark who lights the flame of change and lead your organization to be an environment of more kindness, consideration, and respect.
Here are more resources for this important subject…
More on P.M Forni and the JHU Civility Project:
More on Christine Porath:
Finally, get more perspective on your own level of civility by taking Porath’s civility assessment. Once complete, you will learn about your strengths and weaknesses and get actionable steps you can take to improve: