Civility and Respect at Work

With a fresh new year ahead of us, a recent article about incivility and respect offers timely information about workplace civility.
The Price of Incivility” by Christine Porath and Christine Pearson can be found in this month’s Harvard Business Review. You can also read the authors’ short HBR blog “You’re Rude Because Your Boss Is Rude” (January 18, 2013).

Because the topics of respect, civility and appreciation are often raised by my clients I found the articles relevant and interesting.

Here are some highlights:

  • Stress leads to rudeness (but stress a good excuse?)
  • Rudeness is infectious, we can subtly lose our good behaviours without knowing it
  • Some managers don’t care about creating a civil workplace
  • Just witnessing acts of incivility has detrimental effects on a person

Research shows that workplace incivility has detrimental effects on creativity, effort, quality of work, profits, productivity, relationships, commitment to the organisation, client satisfaction. Workplace incivility increases stress and ill health, anxiety

What can be done?

  • Make civility an organisational priority, set guidelines, teach civility, create group norms
  • Walk away, speak up, let go, act with dignity: choose the appropriate situational behaviour
  • Learn from rudeness: your own or others’. What would you do instead next time?
  • Leaders should set the tone
  • Model good behaviour
  • Reward good behaviour, penalise bad behaviour
  • Ask for feedback about your behaviours

For a workplace to retain its soul, health, productivity, quality work and strong team relationships, the building block is respect. Are you an active participant in generating and maintaining a civil and respectful workplace?


Further readings

Four related articles I’ve written in the past:

Appreciation #1 (2006)

Appreciation #2 (2011)

No Jerks Rule (2007):

Respect at Work (2009):

Other references

Leadership lessons from the Royal Navy (January 2013, McKinsey Quarterly )
“This branch of the British armed services consciously fosters cheerfulness and nourishes its collective memory. Business executives should take note. ”

Christine Porath has also written a chapter on Civility for The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship. I haven’t read it yet, but plan to soon. Porath, C.L. (2011). Civility. In K. Cameron & G. Spreitzer (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship. Oxford University Press.


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