The rise of incivility in the workplace

man sticking out his tongue at a phoneEarlier this month, I participated in Respect in the Workplace training at my work. It was excellent.

While there was a pronounced focus on harassment, timely given the Me Too movement and stories of sexual abuse and harassment out of Hollywood, there was also an important emphasis on respect and incivility.

Incivility in the workplace is on the rise. Both McKinsey and Harvard Business Review have published excellent articles on this trend and the hidden costs.

According to one study in 1998, 50% of workers reported they were treated rudely at least once a month. In 2011, the figure rose to 55% and 62% in 2016. That’s twelve times a year most of us experience some form of incivility at work.

What happens when we experience incivility in the workplace? We feel devalued, hurt, emotionally upset. It becomes hard to concentrate and focus on tasks at hand. It is emotionally draining. If it festers or the conflict worsens, the fight, flight or freeze response begins to override our ability to function. We disengage or we leave altogether.

Incivility results in lower productivity, higher employee turnover, and lower employee engagement.

What wasn’t addressed in the training was the root cause of this disturbing trend. Some may attribute it to Trump or social media. I believe the root cause is directly related to the amount of pressure and stress on employees to deliver results at all costs—often at the cost of incivility.

And here’s the scary part–none of us are immune.

A few weeks ago, I found myself speaking a bit icily on the phone to a colleague who had not communicated with me that they would miss a requested deadline. There was no phone call or email to let me know they could not complete the work, despite several attempts on my part to follow up with them.

Who in this case was disrespectful—me for adopting a clipped, direct tone (but hopefully still professional) to the conversation, or my colleague for not communicating with me in the first place? You tell me.

There is one thing I do know. People will always take their cue from the people at the top. Leaders must live, breathe and model respect and civility in the workplace if it is to be sanctified in the culture of the organization.

There is a nasty trickle down effect that occurs when a leader speaks or sends an email with highly caustic or sarcastic language to employees. It sends a message—it’s OK to act this way, when it’s not OK.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take a stand against incivility in the workplace. We all need to be leaders to make our workplaces happier, positive places to be.

Advertisements

How to be happier at work

Chief happiness officerIn April, I attended a workshop by Dr. Raj Raghunathan, Professor of Marketing at the McCombs School of Business and known happiness researcher at the University of Austin, Texas. His talk was on how to be happier at work.

Here is the Coles notes version of what he shared.

First, it pays to be happier at work. Happier workers are healthier and more productive. They are better at making decisions and creative problem solving. When you’re happy, your brain is “lit up” and working on full cylinders. Happier workers also tend to be better team players. It is in companies’ best interests to make sure their employees are happy.

Now for the million dollar question. How can you be happier at work? The good doctor shared three tenets to live by:

  1. Find an optimal work-life balance: he recommends working no more than 40 hours a week and cited many studies where working more can actually make you less productive
  2. Cut your commute. Commuting is a happiness killer and results in higher stress levels and incidences of sickness and leave
  3. Promote socializing within your organization. Organizations where co-workers develop friendships have significantly lower turnover rates and higher engagement rates. Encourage people to network, volunteer for social causes together, organize retreats and team building exercises and get to know your co-workers.

I asked the question how do we get organizations to buy in to these tenets? Dr. Raghunathan says every organization should have a Chief Happiness Officer and leaders must embrace these principles to drive a healthy and happy work culture.

This week’s #HappyAct is to adopt these three principles to be happier at work. And if anyone is looking for a Chief Happiness Officer for their organization, I’m open to offers.

Write your own employment contract

employment contractIt’s scary how many people I talk to fielding work calls and emails at all hours of the day.

This has what the work world has come to these days. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. You can write your own employment contract. I wrote mine years ago after I got laid off early in my career. Here’s what I promised myself:

  • While on vacation, I will not check my email. I’ll make sure I have sufficient back-up and confidence in my team to handle anything that comes up in my absence.
  • I won’t work weekends unless there is something out of the ordinary that necessitates cutting into my precious time with my family.
  • I believe that someone else’s lack of planning does not constitute a crisis in my day and I have pledged to never be the cause of a crisis for people I work with because of my lack of planning. That would be disrespectful.
  • I deserve and will take at least 10 or 15 minutes to eat my lunch.
  • Whenever possible, I will go for a short walk at lunch to clear my head, and get a few minutes of exercise and fresh air.
  • I will leave the office at a reasonable time each night so I can have dinner with my family. My productivity takes a nose dive about an hour after my normal work day ends, so it is not in my best interests or the best interests of my company for me to stay.
  • I will work my hardest and uphold the highest standards of professional integrity.

This week’s #HappyAct is to write your own employment contract. Do you think mine is realistic today, or am I a dinosaur? Leave a comment.

Love in the workplace

Tomorrow, most of us will go back to work after some much deserved time off. Not a single person I asked this year had a new year’s resolution about work and yet global employee engagement is at an all time low.

A 2015 Gallup study showed just 13% of employees are engaged in their workforce. Gallup defines employee engagement as employees being involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. The remaining 87% of employees are either not engaged or indifferent–or even worse, actively disengaged and potentially hostile to their organizations.

What if we had more love in the workplace? Not romantic love, but the supreme emotion of love that affects how we feel, think and motivates us to act.

One leadership expert, Mark Crowley thinks love is the answer. In his Fast Company post, “Why engagement happens in employees hearts, not minds, Crowley says while traditionally using the word “love” in the context of the workplace has been taboo, when people feel cared for, nurtured and growing they will serve the organization well.

Another fascinating thing Crowley discovered in his research is “while people used to derive their greatest sense of happiness from time spent with family and hobbies, how satisfied workers feel in their jobs now determines their overall happiness with life. This monumental shift means that job fulfillment has become essential to people everywhere.”

I think employee engagement boils down to this. Your pay cheque is what makes you show up for work every day. What you do with your time when you’re there depends on four things:

  1. the degree to which the work you do is aligned to your passion and strengths
  2. the relationships you have at work and the “love” factor Crowley talks about
  3. how much you believe and are committed to the purpose of the organization,
  4. and what I call the “negative quotient”: the degree to which negative factors at work affect your ability to succeed. This can be anything from office politics to feelings of anxiety around change or direction to not having access to tools or resources to help you do your job (what experts call being “enabled” when defining sustainable engagement)

Employee rewards are important for attracting and keeping good talent, but not necessarily motivating people. Only people and love can motivate people.

If you have five minutes, read his full post. There are some great basic nuggets in the article: companies only focused on profits without a compelling mission will inherently neuter employee engagement and the importance of recognizing people.

This week’s #HappyAct is to love your co-workers and the people at work. And if I don’t say it enough to my team: thank you for everything you do. I think it’s a miracle you show up at work every day and do the amazing work you do. I love you all.