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Incivility Damages Workplace Productivity But Civil Treatment Betters Culture

A lack of civility in the workplace disrupts employee productivity, threatens health, and prevents happiness. That’s the conclusion of Georgetown University McDonough School of Business professor Christine Porath in a recent Quartz editorial. She connects the dots from a firm’s culture of civility to its bottom line. 

How Rudeness Steals From Each of Us

Companies that tolerate rudeness suffer from decreased employee productivity. Porath’s research found that of the nearly 800 managers and employees surveyed, 47% of those who were treated poorly decreased the amount of time they spend at work. Thirty-eight percent admitted deliberately decreasing the quality of their work, 66% cited declining performance, and 78% reported less commitment to their organization.
Add time spent worrying about or avoiding uncivil incidents and employee productivity plummets in toxic workplaces. Even when employees want to be productive, rudeness can affect performance in other ways. Porath’s experiments found that when employees are exposed to rudeness—even when they are not the target of abuse—creativity and willingness to collaborate decrease dramatically. If only the consequences of incivility ended there.
Incivility also damages customer relationships. Porath’s research demonstrates that many customers are less likely to patronize companies with uncivil reputations. Observing even one rude interaction can spawn generalizations about an entire brand. Citing Uber’s struggle with consumer perception, Porath suggests that a negative reputation about employee treatment strongly affects customer support and loyalty.
Thankfully, Porath’s observations have a silver lining: a commitment to a culture of civility gets results.

How Civil Treatment Contributes to Success

Civil treatment deeply affects employee satisfaction and commitment. Porath’s research found that, “those who felt respected by their leader reported 92% greater focus and prioritization, 55% more engagement, 56% better health and well-being, and 89% greater enjoyment and satisfaction with their jobs.” These employees were also more likely to remain in their organizations.
When employees are working at their best, companies enjoy better results from top to bottom. For those companies that struggle to maintain a civil atmosphere, there are a number of steps that can make a difference right away.

How to Improve Workplace Civility

Hire civil employees
Use behavioral questions during your interview process to evaluate whether a prospective employee values civility. Check references to learn specifics about an applicant’s track record of civil behavior.
Don’t tolerate persistent rudeness
Make civil treatment part of your performance reviews. If a worker’s bad behavior isn’t corrected quickly, it might be time to let the employee go.
Model civil treatment
Include civility in your company’s official values. Post statements to that effect. Porath also suggests making it routine for employees and managers to hold each other accountable for civil behavior.
Finally, train your employees on the benefits and practices of civil treatment
Show them what it means to work in a civil company culture, and express all the benefits of working together with courtesy and politeness.
Nurturing a civil workplace culture can mean significant improvements in your company’s productivity, customer relations, and employee satisfaction. Read the article here.

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