The Financial Benefits of Workplace Civility

According to Christine Porath from Georgetown University, more than two-thirds of employees withhold effort after experiencing or seeing incivility. When employees feel disrespected, their performance declines because they are focused on incidents rather than work and may even take their frustrations out on clients or customers. Furthermore, incivility negatively impacts people’s thinking skills. According to two studies published in the Academy of Management Journal in 2007, people who were belittled performed 33 percent worse on anagram word puzzles than did people who were not belittled. The same people came up with 39 percent fewer creative ideas during a brainstorming experiment. “Your success depends on getting people to give more. How you treat people means everything.”

What’s more, the same pattern was true for people who were merely exposed to incivility rather than having it directed at them, according to Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes in 2009. “Incivility is like being trapped inside a fog. Even if the bad behavior isn’t aimed at us – we’re just witnesses – it can put us in a real cloud of negativity and have some pretty pronounced effects.”  Studies affirm only around 30 percent of employees are fully engaged in their jobs these days, costing companies more than $400 billion a year in productivity loss. Being a civil leader can go a long way to recouping some of that loss. Treating employees with respect is not just about treating people the right way or being politically correct; not doing so can severely hinder business growth. As Porath says, it hijacks focus and robs employees of potential. If employees are exposed to a culture of belittlement, being felt unappreciated and unvalued, odds are they are going to psychologically check out which will pull down productivity.

On the flipside, civility encourages better performance from employees because it creates a “positive cycle” within the organization that allows everyone to focus on their jobs. Civility increases productivity. According to one of Porath’s studies, employees who feel respected by their leaders report 92 percent greater focus on prioritization, 56 percent better health and well-being, and 55 percent more engagement.

Incivility is a business killer both figuratively and literally. According to a recent case, doctors’ performance in treating a patient after having been berated by their superior resulted in the patient’s death. Even though the instructions were in front of them, the group could not focus on the patient because they were too preoccupied thinking about the disrespectful treatment by their boss.

As a leader, the life of your business depends upon you properly motivating employees to perform. Without their effort, the company will fail. “Saying you don’t have time to treat employees respectfully is akin to saying you don’t have time to treat people in a way that will get good results . . . which after all, is your job as a manager.”