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.