Civility in the Workplace

Christine Porath contributed a great piece in last Sunday’s The New York Times, “No Time to Be Nice at Work”. Many of you know that “badly behaving bosses” is one of my soap boxes, so I was interested in her article and the underlying research.

This problem of incivility occurs all too often. I’ve had dozens of executive coaching assignments where I’ve been brought in because senior level people treat others like road kill. They possess a level of self-importance that their point of view, their time, their “privilege” is more important than anything. They boost themselves at the expense of others.

Do you know anyone like this?

Do You Really Need to Adapt Your Style?

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, you hear more. One of my CEO clients asked me – with some exasperation – why he had to adapt his style to communicate more effectively with his employees.

I share this story because this person is intelligent, passionate, and goal-driven. But, he has an abrupt demeanor and his acerbic delivery puts off the people who work for him. We’ve worked on this issue of effective communication for months, but he hasn’t processed its importance as a priority in his professional development.

In the particular situation that triggered our discussion, an employee did not understand his request. Instead of trying to explain it differently, he shouted at her. He was frustrated because he didn’t understand why she didn’t comprehend his request.

Seeping Knowledge

Is there one person in your organization who serves unofficially as your “historian” or “librarian”? These people typically have worked for many years and are the holders of your institutional knowledge.

They know how you did things 15 years ago and how and why processes changed over time. They remember your company superstars and what they contributed. They recall the good and bad managers, and the impact they had on the staff.

They know things about clients that are tucked away in the back of their heads, only to rise to the surface if something related to those clients appears.

Under the Microscope

I’ve had clients who have gone into negative spirals as a result of massive change and uncertainty that occurred in their companies. This isn’t unusual, but the more senior you are, the more you’re under the microscope when this happens.

Your boss, your peers, and your staff will respond to you in different ways. No matter how they see it – even if all they’re doing is picking up your negative energy – it can leave the wrong message and even undo your reputation.

When these things happen, you need to get a grip and remember to be the leader that people expect you to be. If you don’t like what’s going on in your organization, be careful where and how you voice this dissatisfaction. An “innocent” random comment can be repeated to someone who can use it against you.