What happened to polite people? It seems that over the years, people have continuously treated people worse. Rudeness and incivility affect people in a deeper level, and especially affect their performance in the workplace.
A recent incident of “over-the-top rudeness” made me relate rudeness and incivility to not only strangers in public, but between coworkers.
As I stepped off he train, the large man in front of me stepped passed an elderly lady and knocked her down. He not only did not say “Excuse me,” or “I’m sorry;” but continued to bump into folks on his way to exiting the train station.
Unfortunately, this type of treatment is becoming more common between people in the workplace.
Rudeness on the Rise
In meetings that I was in the previous day, the rude act of “simply knocking down a person” might have been polite in comparison to what I experienced.
The meetings were contentious, but not because of the topics we were dealing with. They were obnoxious because everyone was trying to get their point out and were unwilling to listen to their counterparts suggestions.
It made me wonder this:
- Is this normal now?
- What does our lack of common courtesy cost us?
- Why are people acting this way?
What I found was shocking…
Workplace incivility is so common that we often don’t even notice it. Recent research found that 1 in 5 people in their sample claimed to be targets of incivility from a coworker at least once a week.
About 2/3 said they witnessed incivility happening among other employees at least once a month. 10% said they saw incivility among their coworkers every day.
What’s more, it’s not unique to the America.
Authors Christine Pearson and Christine Porath in their book “The Cost of Bad Behavior” discovered that 50% of Canadians in their study also reported suffering from incivility directly from their coworkers at least once a week.
99% said that they witnessed incivility at work and 25% reported seeing incivility occurring between coworkers daily.
Politeness and Performance
Rudeness and incivility at work have a huge effect on performance, according to a Harvard Business Review study. In response to rudeness at work:
- 48% of employees decreased their work effort
- 47% decreased their time at work
- 38% decreased their work quality
- 66% said their performance declined
- 80% lost work time worrying about the incident
- 63% lost time avoiding the offender
- 78% said their commitment to the organization declined
It even affects team performance:
- Team mates always guarded and ready to fight.
- Employees not trusting and unwilling to do more than “exactly what we are told”
Meetings that don’t go any where – because there is not much on the way of decorum people won’t try to have real conversations and therefore most group interactions will turn into monologues
1. Start being more polite yourself
- Have a filter – being polite does not mean don’t tell the truth. It means think about how to say seething so that you honor the listener’s sensibilities
- Respond to rudeness with super politeness. I learned this from my British coworkers. They diffused anger and made aggressors feel stupid by responding to anger or aggression with being polite. It’s hard to be a jerk to someone when they are treating you with respect.
- Live by the platinum rule. It’s one level above gold. Be better to people than they would be to you. Yes, in the near term you may not reap the benefits but in the long run it will pay dividend to you and make it safe for people around you to go above and beyond without expectations as a normal course of business.
2. Acknowledge there is a problem on the team with rudeness.
Make sure to let folks know that you play a part in it.
- Let your team know that being rude or “passive aggressive” isn’t okay any more.
- Create ground rules for discussions that include being civil
- Don’t let people get away with being inappropriate in groups
When someone says something snide, snarky or just rude, call them on it. For some reason people think it makes them look cool or smart to be über cynical and make others look bad. Let them know that is not “cool”. You’ll see immediate increases in brainstorming and innovation when people don’t have to worry about being cut down in public.
3. Don’t confuse politeness with weakness
- Being polite doesn’t mean that you must acquiesce to the will of those around you. Make sure that you express your opinions and stand your ground but in a way that encourages dialogue.
- Remember, you can be firm and polite.
4. Carry this out to customers, colleagues, vendors and everyone
- Treating your vendors with respect and courtesy will ensure that they will be more apt to respond to emergencies, work with you when you need to cut the budget and partner with you.
- When you treat others with respect you get a reputation as someone who is easy to work with and..wait for it…more people want to work with you.
Even if this doesn’t earn you 100% more business, it’ll make working that much more pleasurable! After all, we spend over 80% of our adult lives at work, it should be more pleasurable. So don’t be fooled, being civil can have real benefits to the organization’s productivity and profitability.
Have you noticed growing issues with politeness/professionalism? What would/should you do about it?
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Anil Saxena is a President & Senior Consultant Cube 214 Consulting
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | (847) 212-0701
- Civility is More than Good Manners (leaderwalk.wordpress.com)
- Professional Life Conflict is Top Concern (keithbranson.wordpress.com)
- The Commons: Incivility is in the eye of the beholder (macleans.ca)