Monday, June 22, 2015

What Incivility at Work Costs All of Us

I'd say there's probably more than a few discussions today around the watercooler and via email about mean bosses after a New York Times opinion piece "No Time to Be Nice at Work."

In the article by Christine Porath, associate professor at Georgetown University, she noted that after studying the cost of incivility for nearly 20 years she finds that "insensitive interactions" hurt a person's health, performance and souls.

I've written before in this blog about a**hole bosses, and know from personal experience the toll they take on a person. It makes you more prone to sickness -- even leading to health issues such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. It undercuts your confidence, it affects personal relationships and it can lead to emotional problems such as depression.

Porath notes that such bosses produce demoralized employees through a string of actions such as "walking away from a conversation because they lose interest; answering calls in the middle of meetings without leaving the room; openly mocking people by pointing out their flaws or personality quirks in front of others; reminding their subordinates of their 'role' in the organization and 'title'; taking credit for wins, but pointing the finger at others when problems arise."

Do these people know they're being mean and belittling others? According to Porath and those I've interviewed over the years, these people often often don't realize how rude they are being. They were treated this way by their boss, so that's the way they act toward others. Once you add in the fact that many of us took on extra duties when the economy tanked, the pressure of the 24/7 do-it-now workplace, and you've got big problems.

I do believe civility is contagious. I've worked for some tough editors, who liked to eat reporters for lunch. But I came across a young editor several years ago who always said, "please" and "thank you." He never failed to say "Good morning!" or "Have a nice weekend!" The surprising thing is that he did this all via instant messaging. 

My point is that while it's going to be difficult for the average worker to break the uncivil habits of a senior leader, we can all take a step toward making the workplace better. This young editor certainly affected me. I began to be more aware of saying "please" and "thank you," no matter how brief the interaction.

You know what? It made me feel better about my day. Just being nice to others helped relieve my stress. Maybe my day hadn't been stellar, but I ended it knowing I hadn't been a jerk, either.

Remember, you cannot complain about incivility when you're snarky about a co-worker, gossip with others or treat anyone with disrespect -- no matter his or her title.

Civil behavior starts with each one of us. Our health and our well-being depends on it. It's a work challenge we should all embrace.


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