In the workplace there is little room for civility and kindness unless it is ingrained in a company culture. Business tends to lean towards being hard-nosed and competitive with people adopting the “what’s in it for me” attitude. This has resulted in an unspoken culture of incivility in companies, a behaviour that we’ve all probably engaged in from time to time but one which we don’t approve of. Incivility means that we’re disrespectful and undignified towards others, and express this by not listening attentively, by looking at our phone while someone is speaking to us, working on our laptop while talking, taking credit for a job that we didn’t do, blaming others and not taking ownership when we make a mistake, walking away from people while they’re still talking, publicly mocking or belittling people, being dismissive towards others, ignoring or excluding people in conversations, and withholding information. We may not be doing these things with malice but rather from a place of ignorance; however, in a workplace environment incivility in a company culture comes at a high cost. It doesn’t matter if you’re directly involved or if you’re observing incivility towards a colleague, it affects you just as much!
Incivility can be summarised as being blatantly rude towards others and not respecting diversity. Most leaders are actively doing their best to promote and get a healthy balance within their teams and using diversity to appreciate and leverage off each other’s many and varied talents, skills, strengths, ideas and perspectives. Incivility simply pours ice cold water over diversity. Research shows that incivility within a company culture results in decreased work performance, reduced creativity and brainstorming by up to 39%, disengagement in meetings, a lack of attention to instructions, and emotional exhaustion. Incivility comes at a high cost to organisations, but it is seldom ring-fenced as such. We think that people are under pressure to perform and busy with work tasks which makes multi-tasking acceptable, when in actual fact it is not. We’ll start to see little cliques developing within our teams and will notice that some of our colleagues are more isolated from the team than they should be. We all see it, but we don’t always take the time to stop, think about it and reflect over its impact on others, the team and our organisation. We may be directly involved and know how emotionally draining it feels to be sidelined or bullied by others, but we don’t often stand up for ourselves. We see it, we hear it, we feel it, but we don’t do enough about it to stop it, and we allow this uncivil behaviour of others to wash over us. Incivility in the workplace is not ok and it’s not acceptable. The change can come from leadership and be filtered down, but it can also start with you and be filtered down to your co-workers.
To shift the lever from incivility to being civil and respectful can start with being kind and empathetic towards others by using these tools.
- Saying thank you can go a very long way. These are two very simple and easy words that we only use 10% of the time at work. Be civil by thanking the people around you for their contribution, for their ideas and for their commitment. Thank you is also about acknowledging the person and being respectful of their work, time, ideas and resources. It’s about not taking other people for granted. Make a conscious effort to thank people more often.
- Share resources and knowledge: At work we often hold onto our knowledge believing that if we share it with others it may make us perhaps dispensable or vulnerable as others can use our work, ideas and concepts. Quite the contrary is true! When we share our knowledge and resources, we make room for innovation and allow for creativity with new ideas and concepts. Sharing is definitely caring, and often through conversation entirely novel ideas emerge. Not to mention that nowadays most of the knowledge can be googled and doesn’t have the prestige and power it did 20 or 30 years ago. Share your time and knowledge openly, frequently and generously.
- Give feedback generously and express gratitude: Giving someone feedback goes a level deeper than simply saying thank you as you have to be more specific. Articulate clearly what you liked about what they did and want more of, or what you think could be improved on. The art here is not to be general, but to really take the time to be specific about their behaviour, language, skill or process as that depth helps people to make the necessary change, by either repeating a behaviour, tweaking it or mastering it. Also, share what you’re grateful for in the person, and acknowledge them for the strengths and values they bring to your work.
- Attentive listening and attention: How often do you catch yourself listening with one ear, nodding away to the person talking, but already thinking of something else? It’s an unhealthy habit many of us have developed that is completely rude. We know very well what it feels like to be on the receiving end and we don’t like it at all, so be civil and don’t do it to others. Stop what you’re doing and honour what the person has come to share with you. Listen attentively to them about what they want or need from you. Tune into their mind and way of thinking so that you can solve a problem quicker or address their concern without miscommunication. Listening saves time and demonstrates respect towards the other person.
The time has come to reduce incivility in the workplace and to shift into humane engagements that value respect and honour diversity and kindness. Don’t wait for others to kick-start this; be courageous and start with your team and your co-workers.
Take this brief civility assessment to establish what your score is as well as areas that you can improve on: http://www.christineporath.com/take-the-assessment/
Do your bit to change your workplace into a happy environment.
Have you ever stopped to wonder what your company culture is centred around?
The topic of kindness at work would probably be considered controversial and unnecessary for a traditional organisation. However, as our need for happiness and satisfaction at work grows, kindness becomes a valuable and inexpensive method to change your company culture and boost your bottom line.
While in the past kindness may have been perceived as weakness, research is growing in support of the positive impact that a kindness company culture can have not only on your employees, but on your company’s success.
A primary concern for most companies in today’s economy is to ensure a secure bottom line, and to stabilise its workforce to guarantee consistent and sustainable income. And while this is a necessary consideration for any business to survive, the need for healthy and happy employees is imperative for any business to thrive. We know that a people focus builds profits, and while the tendency may be to lead the way we were led, if we are to create impactful and happy organisations we need to learn a new set of skills. Kindness, among other things such as resilience, engagement and purpose, plays a key role in building positive, productive workplaces.
For those of us who have experienced rudeness, pettiness or have been the butt of an office joke, the value of kindness is obvious. However, a growing body of research is showing some interesting and important findings about why a kindness culture in your workplace will boost productivity and serve your bottom line. Here are some of the findings:
- Kindness boosts customer satisfaction and sales
Customers want to be treated with respect, and if they have a negative experience with your staff they are likely to share their experience with others, and if you’re unlucky on social media. In today’s economy it is genuine kindness that can give your company the competitive edge as it encourages people to return and spread the word about your business.
2. Only 10% of people say thank you at work
This statistic, while true, is also terrifying and begs the following questions: Do you thank your staff for their efforts? Do you make an effort to show appreciation for even the small roles that people play in keeping your company going? It is a fundamental human need to be respected and held in high esteem. We want to belong, and when we are validated for our efforts we begin to build positive relationships. So, next time someone brings you a coffee, or cleans your office, be sure to say thank you – it costs nothing!
3. Kindness increases positive relationships in the workplace
Kindness in the workplace can be as simple as saying thank you, holding the door for somebody, or offering to assist a stressed colleague. However, it can be translated into even more beneficial behaviours such as the sharing of information. A company culture that encourages people to share resources, information and recognition is the true sign of a kind company culture. Sharing increases productivity, problem solving and creativity, thus producing better products with a greater impact.
4. Kindness increases inclusion and reduces lawsuits
Sexual harassment, racism, homophobia and other common HR issues are any leader’s biggest nightmare, because on top of affecting the office climate they can have a serious financial and PR impact. Breeding a company culture of kind words, non-judgemental listening, and sharing is a sure-fire way to reduce these incidences. A company culture that values respect above bias, holds all employees in esteem and holds rude people accountable, sets a strong foundation on which to build inclusion and diversity, thus breaking down harmful stereotypes and the punishable behaviours associated with it.
5. Kindness is contagious
We already know the power of a smile and how when someone smiles at us we share it with others. The same works for acts of kindness. When someone does even a small act of kindness we want to repay this kindness either to that person or to others. Random acts of kindness have a powerful impact on our happiness levels because it feels good to do good. Encouraging this company culture of small acts of kindness in the form of volunteering time, offering coffee or helping a colleague are a few small ways for you to start boosting kindness in your company and in turn grow the happiness levels of your team and the individuals which keep it going. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
6. A kindness company culture reduces absenteeism
A recent study into the cost of absenteeism because of stress-related conditions amounts to over £6.5 billion a year. Stress is therefore the number one biggest cause of absenteeism and loss of productivity to companies worldwide. It would be completely absurd to ignore the impact of stress on your employees as it has a direct impact on your bottom line.
Kindness is a small but effective first step to reducing stress in the workplace. As already mentioned, when there is a kindness company culture people are more willing to help each other, to share information which can ease another’s stress, and build positive relationships which reduce social anxiety and stress related to belonging to a team. Kindness is therefore a highly cost-effective strategy to reduce stress levels and combat the multitude of related conditions which are rising as a result.
7. Kindness boosts attention and productivity
Research shows that when we are stressed or unhappy our attention is compromised. A good example is to consider how being tired affects your concentration, problem-solving ability, mistake making and time taken to complete a task. The same is true for unhappiness; it drains our cognitive capacity and in turn our quality and quantity of work output. As previously mentioned, kindness boosts well-being and overall happiness within an organisation which has a direct effect on the ability of your staff to achieve amazing results in a shorter time.
Take Home Message
There is a quote by the Dalai Lama that seems poignant to share at this time.
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
Kindness is perhaps the most underrated practice that you can use to leverage the best from your employees and build a sustainable income. Kindness impacts each individual, the relationships they build and the customers they serve. It is therefore in the best interests of every company hoping to stay relevant and competitive to invest time in building a kindness company culture.
Please share this article with anybody you feel would benefit. Consider this your act of kindness for the day, as sometimes even the kindest people you know need to have their passion reignited.
The Global Happiness Policy Report 2018 was presented at the World Government Summit in Dubai in February. It covers a wide range of topics from positive education, happy countries and cities to live in, good corporate governance, social well-being, the cost of mental illness and workplace well-being. Since assisting leaders and companies to develop and maintain happiness in the workplace is my personal passion, I want to focus on sharing the main workplace features of the 2018 global research and trends.
Work plays a central role in most people’s lives which is understandable as we spend one third of our time there. Also, our work impacts our level of happiness and overall life satisfaction by a staggering 83%, and looking at the three core drivers that make up life satisfaction: finances, health and work, that high number speaks for itself. All life satisfaction drivers are closely connected and affect our daily decisions, actions and head space. People don’t always think of their work as particularly enjoyable or find tasks stimulating, but being employed has a crucial impact on our overall well-being. Full-time employees have the highest life satisfaction score (5.7), with part-time employees in second place (5.5). Self-employment comes in third place (5.0) and unemployment (4.75) has the most negative impact on life satisfaction. These scores are all out of 6. Women are generally more satisfied with their lives in all employment categories. As much as we moan about our work, boss and/or colleagues, employment gives people a sense of meaning and purpose. It’s a place where we can connect socially with others and have a daily routine.
The Global Happiness Policy Report compares world regions with regard to work satisfaction. The front runners are New Zealand (87,4%), Europe (86,4%) and North America (85,8%). On the lower end, Russia comes in at 75,2%, East Asia (72,8%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (60,2%).
This makes me wonder which criteria define a good job. Researchers did exactly that – identified 12 criteria across various countries, industries and positions, standardising the statistics, which enabled them to determine which work criteria is more important and impactful on people’s overall well-being and job satisfaction. So basically, in a nutshell, which criteria matter most to employees.
The 12 work criteria, defined by Andrew Clark in 2009, are described below in the order of ranking from the most important to the least.
- Interpersonal relationships: this is the most important workplace criteria and has a huge effect on job satisfaction and our well-being. Our work tasks are generally structured in such a way that we interact with customers, colleagues and supervisors all day and this interaction means a lot to us and will have a negative impact if things are not going well.
- Interesting job: it might come as a surprise as to how important having an interesting job is on job and life satisfaction. The fact is that having an interesting job matters to everybody, regardless of position, education or the company you work for.
- Pay: this is universally important to people’s life satisfaction and it’s no surprise that it receives a high ranking. It is made up of two components: the actual income earned for work produced, and the subjective assessment if one’s pay is perceived as fair and equitable. People view pay as proof of their level of input and productivity.
- Work-life imbalance: this has the most negative impact on job satisfaction and overall life well-being. It is divided into three aspects: work interfering with one’s family is the most prevalent, then the difficulty of taking time off work at short notice. and finally having to work on weekends.
- Difficulty, stress and danger: this is made up of two elements: physically straining work and stressful work. Stressful work is the most dominant component and has a significant relationship with employee workplace well-being. Physically straining work is a concern but one that can be mitigated with good health and safety policies.
- Job security: surprisingly this is also in the middle of the rankings. The reason for this could be because underemployment (the condition in which people are employed at less than full-time or regular jobs) in some countries overshadows over employment (a condition in which the demand for labour exceeds the available supply) in others.
- Opportunities for advancement: this seems to become more important for job and life satisfaction the higher one’s education level. What is relevant is the perceived progress an opportunity provides and is determined by clear goal-setting including well-defined, measurable goals.
- Independence: this is also known as autonomy. It’s about the employee being able to make decisions as to what extent they want to work independently, at home or at the office, with the choice of organising their own work tasks and how many hours they want to work. It’s about allowing employees to craft and structure their jobs and increases employee engagement and job satisfaction to a large degree while reducing burnout.
- Skills match: this is moderately important for employee well-being. On the one hand there is participation in skills training, and on the other hand, whether the skills learnt match the requirements of the job. That being said, a leader’s level of effectiveness has a 72% effect on an employee’s level of engagement and use of their skills, which might justify why this criteria is ranked in the middle.
- Usefulness: this refers to pro-social behaviour that is intended to benefit one or more individuals other than oneself. Common activities would be helping others, sharing information or co-operating in a team environment. However, the component that matters the most is volunteering and doing good for others outside of the work environment.
- Working hours mismatch: this is the difference between the actual hours you work versus the number of hours you would like to work. This criterion has a negative effect on life satisfaction. Also, things such as over employment and underemployment arise and it is no surprise that over employment has a hugely negative effect on an employee’s well-being and the members of their household.
- Working hours: this is surprising, but the working hours mismatch and work-life imbalance have absorbed this criteria.
You might be surprised by some of the rankings. I know I was, but in the end what is important is what you decide to do with this information. It’s not often that we have the privilege of seeing this type of employee research on workplace well-being, job satisfaction and happiness. But knowing what matters most to employees enables leaders to stop assuming or focusing on less relevant criteria.
Now that you have this information, you can work with the criteria and establish how you as a leader can influence and increase the criteria that matters the most to your employees.