According to Christine Porath, Associate Professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, 25% of employees surveyed in 1998 reported being treated rudely at work at least once a week. That number rose to 55% in 2011 and increased further to 62% in 2016. A second poll by Weber Shandwick, Powell Tate, and KRC Research showed that 70% of Americans think that political incivility has reached “crisis” levels.
Catherine Mattice, president of Civility Partners LLC, describes incivility as, “…any sort of rudeness, any sort of micro-aggression, anything you do that causes the other person to feel uncomfortable or unhappy.”
At the watercooler the talk is no longer about Game of Thrones’ episodes but rather discussions about the President’s latest policy decisions, immigration and a border wall. All of these topics have a chance of alienating/infuriating particular races, religions and nationalities. Not all incivility however originates with political disagreements. A survey Porath took two years ago showed that over half of workers behaved uncivilly because of work overload and, oddly, forty percent claimed they had no time to be nice, while a quarter behaved rudely because their bosses also behaved as such. Other factors contributing to the rise of rudeness are cultural clashes and an increase in narcissism among younger adults.
What is the price of workplace unrest? According to a study by Porath and Amir Erez, professor of management at the University of Florida, an individual’s cognitive skills dropped thirty percent after rude treatment. Harmful treatment may cause physical or mental health problems as well. The American Psychological Association estimates that workplace stress costs companies billions every year in employee turnover, absenteeism and lower productivity. A poll of 800 managers and employees conducted by Porath revealed that those treated disrespectfully at work intentionally decreased the quality of their work and the amount of time invested in it. In addition, workplace harassment may lead to expensive lawsuits.
Clearly incivility is a destructive force but how important is showing respect? According to Porath, respect shown by a leader is the most important key to producing commitment and engagement from employees. It outweighs showing recognition and appreciation, feedback and even opportunities for growth.
So listen, forget about President Trump for a moment! Game of Thrones will return in July. Once again we can talk about the war in Westeros rather than the war in the workplace.