Everyday Emotional Intelligence: Big Idea
Did you know that being nice to folks doesn’t just make work more pleasant, it actually promotes your business or organization? Christine Porath and Christine Pearson, writing in an essay for the book Everyday Emotional Intelligence: Big Ideas and Practical Advice on How to Be Human at Work, state that incivility at work hurts morale and the bottom line. Customers who view an employee treating another employee with disrespect can form a negative image of the business and avoid returning. A disrespectful working environment affects employees’ creativity, performance, and commitment.
Incivility can take many forms, and are sometimes the result of thoughtlessness instead of malice. Gross incivility would include publicly correcting, criticizing, belittling, or bullying someone. More subtle forms include texting or emailing during a meeting, taking credit for good results while calling out other people when something goes wrong, and gossiping about another employee’s personal business, performance, or appearance. Mean girls (and boys) are not just in middle school, and they have a deleterious effect on an organization.
According to Porath and Pearson, their poll of 800 managers and employees in 17 industries reveal the personal and business cost of being on the receiving end of incivility:
- 48% intentionally decreased their work effort.
- 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work.
- 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work.
- 80% lost work time worrying about the incident.
- 63% lost work time avoiding the offender.
- 78% said that their commitment to the organization declined.
- 12% said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment.
- 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers.
It is impossible to foster teamwork when rudeness and disrespect cause negative and hostile feelings in a work group. People don’t have to be close personal friends, but animosity, cut-throat competition, and throwing others under the bus are not activities that promote working together.
The good news is that leaders can mentor and direct the team members by modeling good behavior, asking for feedback, rewarding improvement, and penalizing bad behavior. They can make civility a priority in hiring, and teach it to all employees. They can establish protocols with specific ideas for improving a hostile or toxic working environment. One such rule is called the “10/5 way.” If you’re within 10 feet of someone, make eye contact and smile. If you’re within 5 feet, say hello. With longstanding “bad blood” between employees, it may take a little time, but if goals are established, utilized fairly for all employees, and there are consequences for infractions, the situation should improve.