The Servant Leader is servant first...Robert K. Greenleaf

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Civility, or the lack there of, is sometimes a big problem in the workplace. We often ignore it, and bad behavior ignored is bad behavior condoned. This article hits it dead center.

Modeling and encouraging a culture of thoughtfulness
Author: Mary Jo Asmus
I was young and inexperienced when I became responsible for overseeing the administration of cardiovascular drug clinical trials for a major pharmaceutical corporation. This job required a significant number of regular connections with others both inside and outside of the company. One of those employees was a brilliant M.D. who made a point of making me feel small by sarcastically showcasing the knowledge he had – and I didn’t have – in every interaction. He would become angry and demeaning when I didn’t seem to meet his intellectual expectations.

I had to work up my courage to speak to him each time we needed to talk. Looking back, I’m certain that each demeaning conversation I had with him diminished my ability to perform at my best in some way, at least for a while. His behaviors were well known but the organizational leadership tolerated his incivility.
I hear similar stories from clients all the time.

Incivility impacts your bottom line!

There is a lot of common sense involved in treating fellow human beings as living, breathing individuals who want to make a contribution and are worthy of kindness. Yet I can think of no better reason for leaders to stop tolerating incivility in our workplaces than the negative impact it can have on organizational profit.

Christine Porath and Christine Pearson have made it their business to study incivility and its impact in organizations. This article in Harvard Business Review outlines the actual bottom line impact that incivility was costing Cisco, estimated at $12 million a year. Cisco saw the problem and dealt with it head-on.

Acts of incivility are common, insidious, subtle, and can spread in a culture that tolerates them. Rude behavior can be less obvious than bullying, and may include such behaviors as sarcasm, exclusion, gossiping, eye-rolling or distracted listening. We’ve all experienced it, and we know it when we see it. It doesn’t feel good, and can impact dedication and performance at work.

As a leader, you must promote thoughtfulness as a counter to incivility at work:

Become aware of the times that you are thoughtless toward others. Ask for feedback, or take a 360 assessment. Observe yourself in real time, and notice when you may not be thoughtful, and make the changes necessary to become a model of thoughtful behavior. Similarly, observe others’ incivility. Notice specifically the subtle rude behaviors that you find unacceptable in yourself and others.

Start Modeling the kind of behavior you would like to see exhibited in your organization. You are being watched, and if indeed you expect civility and thoughtfulness from others, you must exhibit it yourself. Observing yourself isn’t enough; you must act to eliminate any subtle rude behavior you exhibit.

Stop tolerating thoughtless behavior in others. Deal with it immediately with firmness and kindness. Thoughtful behavioral expectations should be a part of performance review discussions as well as any coaching you may do. Expect your employees to be thoughtful and call them on it when they aren’t.

Begin dialoging in an intentional way about your organizational values and how they are connected to the civility you want to encourage. Avoid teaching or lecturing, but encourage conversations through questions such as “how do we encourage civil behavior at work?”, and “How can we all address rude behavior in others at work?”.

Recognize those who make an effort to exhibit civil behavior. Let them know what you noticed, thank them and encourage continued thoughtfulness.
Tolerating incivility will impact your bottom line. Rude behavior can be countered when you model and encourage thoughtful behavior.

ACCESS Family Care

What is Servant Leadership?

The skills of influencing people to enthusiastically work toward goals identified as being for the common good, with character that inspires confidence.
--James C. Hunter
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