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Civility as a Business Driver

The incivility of the U.S. workplace has been growing steadily for some time. Forbes reports, for example, that a poll on incivility indicated that 62% of employees were spoken to rudely at work during a given month, a figure that has steadily risen since the inception of the survey 18 years ago.

Civility can drive better work commitment and performance.

Incivility has a direct impact on business. Forbes further observes that 78% of people treated uncivilly at work decrease their commitment to the business. Performance measures drop for a full two-thirds.

Nearly half, 47%, will leave work early or come in late. One-quarter let incivility affect their interactions with customers.

Are you losing sales, customers, and good employees due to incivility? The odds are increasing that the answer is yes.

Turning a Company Around

In the Harvard Business Review, the former chair of Campbell’s Soup credits civility with turning the once-ailing company around. Civility, he notes, has been directly shown to increase performance, commitment, and focus.

But how to institute civility, especially in a culture that has grown used to incivility as a mode of life?

A lot about civility is relatively simple.

  • Listening respectfully when others speak.
  • Asking information and opinions from relevant parties.
  • Leading through trust rather than force.

Primarily, the HBR points out, civility needs to be put into an organizational culture by the same means that other goals are.

First, set expectations. Make it clear that everyone from managers to new employees is to behave civilly.

The Campbell’s CEO codified this by rolling out The Campbell Promise: Campbell Valuing People, People Valuing Campbell.

Second, identify practices that will make the expectations happen. One of the ways this was done at Campbell’s was to institute inspiring trust as a core competency for managers.

Third, measure and reinforce the expectation. Codify it into performance appraisals, company employee manuals, and so forth.

Coach, Mentor, and Reward

Forbes suggests similar behavior, particularly setting a new standard and modeling the standard. The Campbell’s CEO, in fact, did this, sitting down with a direct report every month to talk about standards and values.

Forbes also suggests that civility is spread through organizations by coaching and mentoring. How to inspire trust, for example, may not be clear to every new manager. How to do it is a valuable learning experience, even for middle and senior managers.

There should also be accountability for instituting civility into the workplace, for all employees. At Campbell’s managers who could not or would not treat people respectfully were reassigned or let go.

The CEO also instituted an award, Influence with Honor, designed to reward managers who treated employees respectfully the most. Awards can send a powerful signal that behaviors are expected, recognized, and rewarded.

Incivility is a growing problem in the U.S. workplace. It can have measurable impacts on employee performance, ranging from slacking off at work to treating customers poorly. Civility and respect need to be defined as goals, reinforced by specific practices, measured, coached and mentored, and applauded. Doing so can only be good for business.