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Rudeness At Workplace Can Cost Your Business

6 min read

Organizations often wonder about the secret to keeping growth high and constant.

While trying to find solutions, they come up with so many ways – from hiring the best of talent to using the latest technology to fill gaps. But more often than not, the most basic things go unnoticed.

Turns out, being civil in the workplace can be that magical solution to most business problems. Sounds simple? Well, it’s not.

Leadership researcher Christine Porath shares some surprising insights about how rudeness at the workplace can cost businesses heavily. According to Porath’s Ted talk, how you show up and treat people ultimately defines your levels of success. Even little acts of kindness and respect towards one another can boost professional success and also contribute towards the company’s bottom line.

People who lift each other up at work, show respect, make others feel valued, appreciated, and heard are those who end up faring much better in the long run. In her years of studying incivility at the workplace, Porath has found the devastating effects that an uncivil work environment can have on people. And unfortunately, most workplaces fall in this category which is making more and more of us miserable with work-related stress.

Porath, along with her colleague Christine Pearson launched a study in which they wanted to study how small, uncivil actions can lead to much bigger problems like aggression and violence. They sent a survey to business school alumni working in different organizations, where they asked them to write a few sentences about one experience where they thought they were treated rudely and their reactions to it. What followed were rude and snarky comments such as “That’s kindergarten’s work.” There were also examples of work being torn by a superior in front of the entire team.

At Cisco, incivility was costing them 12 million dollars a year.


Porath’s study found that incivility at the workplace led to a direct dip in motivation levels. 66 percent of people cut back work efforts, 80 percent lost time worrying about what happened and 12 percent quit their jobs.

Incivility And Performance

The second focus of the study was to see if incivility at the workplace affected employee performance. The study found that employees who experienced incivility did function much worse. And this was not just limited to the victims of incivility. Even people who witnessed someone being spoken rudely to were found to have decreased performance in quite a significant manner. So the effect of incivility in that sense spills over to the entire organization.

Incivility At The Workplace Is A Disease

Porath refers to incivility as a bug that is contagious. We carry this bug without knowledge, by just being around it. And this is not just restricted to the workplace, but anywhere we go. Such acts of witnessing rudeness affect our own consciousness and hurt our emotional state. This severely affects our motivation and performance levels and also can later the way we treat those around us.

Why Is Incivility So Common?

Porath states the number one reason for incivility to exist despite its huge cost is stress. People are constantly overwhelmed by the world around them, which also makes them concerned about being civil or appearing nice. Unfortunately, leadership is equated with power and uncivil behavior, otherwise, people fear to be less leader-like. Being jerks at work is encouraged because it is assumed that only jerks make it to the top and nice guys are always taken for a ride.

However, in the long run, jerks do not go too far ahead. Another study on leadership by Morgan McCall and Michel Lombardo found that the number one cause of executives failing is insensitive or bullying behavior. So being a jerk can only take someone so far because somewhere along the journey, jerks sabotage their own careers, and the sensitive, benevolent yet inspiring leader moves ahead. Civil people are twice as likely to be viewed as leaders, and they perform significantly better.

Be A Civil Leader

Civility pays not just the leader but also pushes the entire organization towards better results. Porath’s research found that the one thing 20000 employees want from leaders is respect. Being respectful of others is even more crucial than recognition, regular feedback, or training. People who were respected were found to be healthier, more focused, and far more engaged in the workplace.

So start now – lift people up and create a culture of respect. Pass on that smile when you see your colleagues. The smallest of things such as making eye contact, thanking people, sharing credit, giving someone undivided attention, or being humble can make huge differences.  Organizations should give civility the attention it deserves.

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