Do you have rude players on your team? Do others seem to shut down, share less, and avoid talking about potential or actual problems? In a recent article, How Rudeness Stops People from Working Together, Christine Porath discusses the results of a study that documented how incivility diminishes collaboration and performance in medical settings. But of course, rudeness is everywhere. And like the old saying goes, one bad apple really does spoil the bunch. Porath states “In experiments I’ve done, I’ve found that once people are exposed to rudeness, they are three times less likely to help others and their willingness to share drops by more than half.”
We’ve all seen it. It only takes one rude office bully who belittles and puts everyone down to force the rest of the conflict-avoiding team into shut down mode. No one dares step out of line. Even if they don’t fear to lose their job, doing anything outside of status quo just isn’t worth the potential backlash. So they stop trying new ideas. “CYA” becomes the new norm. They stop being a team.
But there’s hope! According to Porath, “A little civility goes a long way, enhancing a team’s performance by increasing the amount of psychological safety that people feel.” And since psychological safety, or the freedom to share new ideas without fear of retribution, is at the core of any team, civility is therefore critical to the strength and production of any team.
Not surprising, it all starts at the top. Porath shares “When leaders are civil, it increases performance and creativity, allows for early mistake detection and the initiative to take actions, and reduces emotional exhaustion.” With the leader setting the stage for proper behavior, others have the courage to follow suit. Porath continues “By creating a civil climate, you can enable greater collaboration marked by people who reciprocate respectful behavior.” But this certainly doesn’t happen overnight. As with any part of your company’s culture, civility must be shared, embraced, and in some cases, taught. In one case a company went so far as to create a “civility code” that was displayed in their lobby.
“Paying attention to your team’s level of civility is worth the effort. It enhances collaboration and performance. Consider adjusting norms as needed or providing training if members are missing the mark.” And if training doesn’t do the trick, you just may need to remove the bad apple.
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