A Look in the Mirror

The last post identified the cost of having a toxic workplace. Leaders who think they might have a difficult or toxic workplace can refer to expert Christine Porath, author of The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It. Porath suggests that leaders look to themselves first.

This approach intuitively makes sense, yet without a bit more it is hard to know what to do.

Porath writes:

Begin by evaluating your own actions.

She goes on to list five questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do I behave respectfully to all employees?
  2. Do I treat individuals on whom I rely, or who can do good things for me, better than others? 
  3. Do I keep a steady temper regardless of the pressures I’m facing?
  4. Do I take out my frustrations on employees who have less power than I do?
  5. Do I assume that I am omnipotent?

The key to looking in the mirror is to check the image a person sees. We have blind spots about our own behavior. Sources for feedback include peers, and asking for feedback from direct reports. When asking for feedback, you as the leader need to be willing to acknowledge the response. Always thank people for feedback and explain that you would like time to think about how to incorporate the feedback into your work. Once you have applied the feedback you can check back again. This provides an excellent model for candor and civility.

A good resource for the this process is Marshall Goldsmith’s book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.  When we work with organizational leaders it is a book and a process that we utilize to support leadership development.


Graphic of CultivateSeeds of Civility is a blog that is created by The Wallace Centers of Iowa.  We cultivate conversations about leading (and developing emerging leaders) with civility.




The Cost of Bad Behavior at Work

The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It, by Chirstine Pearson and Christine Porath was published in 2009.  The book details results of research from Pearson and Porath in their work with business leaders. Since 2009 the number of people that report rudeness at work has risen. In a recent article by business journalist Anna Robaton, she writes that Porath acknowledges 62% of workers in 2016 report that they experience rudeness at least once a month. That is up from the 48% mentioned at the time the book was written.

It is easy to blame others for incivility but that is like blaming someone who has a cold. There is an underlying reason for rudeness and it is easy to pass rudeness on to others. An analogy is like a cold, our immune system is compromised when we experience rudeness. We are more easily bothered by rude behavior when we are under stress.

Leaders in organizations can apply the top ten suggestions offered in Chapter 13 to create a civil workplace.

  1. Set Zero-Tolerance Expectations
  2. Look in the Mirror
  3. Weed out Trouble Before it Enters the Organization
  4. Teach Civility
  5. Train Employees and Managers how to Recognize and Respond to Signals
  6. Put Your Ear to the Ground and Listen Carefully
  7. When Incivility Occurs, Hammer It
  8. Take Complaints Seriously
  9. Don’t Make Excuses for Powerful Instigators
  10. Invest In Post Departure Interviews

These ten steps are not easy. They require constant vigilance.

A case study presented in Chapter 3 outlines the cost in terms of lost productivity, employee turnover, cost of managing incivility by the human resource department and absenteeism. For a healthcare organization with  annual gross income of $999,856,000 they calculated the cost of incivility in estimated loss to be $70,911,390.

The worksheets presented in the book show leaders that there are dollars to be captured by putting together a focused effort to increase civility. This book is extremely helpful to those who want to present a business case for applying the 10 suggestions.

Gather Tips and ToolsThe Wallace Centers of Iowa provides tips and tools for leading with civility in the workplace.



Civility Hero: Cool Cat Diego

1st_and_main_-_diego_resizedIs your workplace was full of interesting personalities like Diego, Julie, and Chet?

They are characters on Starbuck’s first ever animated series.  The fun part of 1st and Main, a series created by three animators of The Simpsons: John Frink, Joel H. Cohen and Rob LaZebnik, is that we get to see a kind-hearted humor presented in a slice of workplace life in America.

In the coffeehouse, there is an element of civility taking place at 1st and Main. In the first episode Diego, the cool cat barista, is the civility hero. He’s got some emotional intelligence going on and plays along with Chet’s goal. Chet wants the young couple who are deciding on a baby name to select the name “Chet” so he makes sure his name is last name to be heard so it lands at the top of the list.

Our civility hero, Diego could be rude and ignore the ambitious eager beaver. Instead he plays along and calls out Chet’s name four times. Watch the episode and decide for yourself what keeps civility in check. Also enjoy the last minute plot twist at the end of this short.

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