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Rise Up Within Your Organization

By Edward Piatt, Ed.D.

Earlier in the year, I wrote an article about customer service and its consequential effects of not attaining an excellent experience for the customer. The corollary, of course, is for leaders and employees to perform civility in the workplace, and more importantly, for the customer. Without civility, customer service often derails and spirals out of control. One of my favorite quotes regarding this phenomenon is, “Civility is the cache of being well-bred.” It sets apart those who practice it and are well regarded, compared to those who violate this dictum and appear rude, uncivil and at times hostile to others. It centers on Emotional Intelligence (EI), and those practitioners who engage in EI and civility, are those who rise to the top in any organization.

From this perspective, a compelling article was written by Christine Porath and Christine Pearson, titled, “The Price of Incivility.” I will highlight their salient points and comment on how to add this to your leadership domain.

Porath and Pearson stated, “Rudeness at work is rampant, and it’s on the rise. Over the past 14 years, we’ve polled thousands of workers about how they’re treated on the job, and 98 percent have reported experiencing uncivil behavior. In 2011 half said they were treated rudely at least once a week—up from a quarter in 1998.” Additionally, they elaborated, “Our research shows that people are less likely to buy from a company with an employee they perceive as rude, whether the rudeness is directed at them or at other employees. Witnessing just a single unpleasant interaction leads customers to generalize about other employees, the organization and even the brand.”

As a consequence, Porath and Pearson enumerate the cost of incivility in an organization. These factors coincide with what many managers would say that incivility is wrong, but not all recognize that it has tangible costs. Targets of incivility often punish their offenders and the organization, although most hide or bury their feelings and don’t necessarily think of their actions as revenge. Through a poll of 800 managers and employees in 17 different industries, Porath and Pearson learned just how people’s reactions play out. Among workers who’ve been on the receiving end of incivility:

  • 80 percent lost work time worrying about the incident.
  • 78 percent said that their commitment to the organization declined.
  • 66 percent said that their performance declined.
  • 63 percent lost work time avoiding the offender.
  • 48 percent intentionally decreased their work effort.
  • 47 percent intentionally decreased the time spent at work.
  • 38 percent intentionally decreased the quality of their work.
  • 25 percent admitted to taking their frustration out on customers.
  • 12 percent said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment.


Given the consequential effects of incivility and its impact on the bottom line, how then does the emerging leader mitigate these onerous statistics? Porath and Pearson offer the following strategies:

  • Managing yourself: The fundamental component of EI is understanding your emotions and knowing how to manage them. If you can manage your emotions you can lead others through their emotions.

 

  • Model good behavior: Model the behavior you are trying to obtain in the organization. Be an example of how civility works with your employees and difficult customers.

 

  • Ask for feedback: Without seeking out appropriate feedback, you can often miss valuable learning opportunities or teachable moments of mistakes that have occurred and more importantly, how to correct them in the future.

 

  • Pay attention to your progress: Monitoring your progress of employees, and how they are implementing EI and civility, is germane to the success of your organization. If you do not monitor the progress, the subcultures of incivility can abound and destroy your success.

 

  • Managing the organization: Leaders must manage the organization. This includes refining and rewarding the purpose, vision and mission of what the organization stands for, and how to keep the organization in sync with the mission and vision. Oftentimes mission and values statements are just window dressing with no afterthought.

 

  • Hire and teach civility: Hire applicants that have outstanding EI and who practice civility. This can be achieved by leaders using crucible moments to address mistakes and how to become more successful with the application of employing and practicing EI.

 

  • Create group norms and reward good behavior: Define the culture of the organization: “What we do around here and we value what we reward.” Punish bad behavior and reward those employees who practice EI and civility. Practice and teach the “Golden Rule” by treating others as you wish to be treated.

 

  • Conduct post departure interviews: Conducting post departure interviews are essential in recognizing why talented employees are leaving your organization. Identify and correct those issues garnered from these interviews and implement procedures to eliminate incivility in your organization.


Above all else, civility is the cornerstone of your organization. How you treat your employee and customers have a direct correlation to your success. As pointed out by Porath and Pearson, they close with a warning to those who think consistent civility is an extravagance: “Just one habitually offensive employee critically positioned in your organization can cost you dearly in lost employees, lost customers and lost productivity.” We would be wise to heed their advice.

Dr. Edward Piatt, Ed.D., is a retired manager from the state of Illinois with 32 years of frontline leadership experience. He is an adjunct professor of business in the MBA and MOL programs at Olivet Nazarene University. He is also an organizational/economic development consultant and lectures frequently on Emotional Intelligence (EI), organizational culture, and leadership. You may contact him at epiatt@olivet.edu.


Dr. Edward Piatt, Ed.D., is a retired manager from the state of Illinois with 32 years of front-line leadership experience. He is an adjunct professor of business in the MBA and MOL programs at Olivet Nazarene University. He is also an organizational/economic development consultant and lectures frequently on emotional intelligence, organizational culture and leadership. You can contact him at epiatt@olivet.edu.


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