Why being respectful to your coworkers is good for business | Christine Porath

Why being respectful to your coworkers is good for business | Christine Porath


Who do you want to be? It’s a simple question, and whether you know it or not, you’re answering it every day
through your actions. This one question will define
your professional success more than any other, because how you show up
and treat people means everything. Either you lift people up
by respecting them, making them feel valued,
appreciated and heard, or you hold people down
by making them feel small, insulted, disregarded or excluded. And who you choose to be means everything. I study the effects
of incivility on people. What is incivility? It’s disrespect or rudeness. It includes a lot of different behaviors, from mocking or belittling someone to teasing people in ways that sting to telling offensive jokes to texting in meetings. And what’s uncivil to one person
may be absolutely fine to another. Take texting while someone’s
speaking to you. Some of us may find it rude, others may think it’s absolutely civil. So it really depends. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder
and whether that person felt disrespected. We may not mean to make
someone feel that way, but when we do, it has consequences. Over 22 years ago, I vividly recall walking into
this stuffy hospital room. It was heartbreaking to see my dad,
this strong, athletic, energetic guy, lying in the bed with electrodes
strapped to his bare chest. What put him there
was work-related stress. For over a decade, he suffered an uncivil boss. And for me, I thought he was
just an outlier at that time. But just a couple years later, I witnessed and experienced
a lot of incivility in my first job out of college. I spent a year going to work every day and hearing things from coworkers like, “Are you an idiot?
That’s not how it’s done,” and, “If I wanted your opinion, I’d ask.” So I did the natural thing. I quit, and I went back to grad school
to study the effects of this. There, I met Christine Pearson. And she had a theory
that small, uncivil actions can lead to much bigger problems like aggression and violence. We believed that incivility affected
performance and the bottom line. So we launched a study,
and what we found was eye-opening. We sent a survey to business school alumni working in all different organizations. We asked them to write a few sentences about one experience
where they were treated rudely, disrespectfully or insensitively, and to answer questions
about how they reacted. One person told us about a boss
that made insulting statements like, “That’s kindergartner’s work,” and another tore up someone’s work
in front of the entire team. And what we found is that incivility
made people less motivated: 66 percent cut back work efforts, 80 percent lost time
worrying about what happened, and 12 percent left their job. And after we published these results,
two things happened. One, we got calls from organizations. Cisco read about these numbers, took just a few of these
and estimated, conservatively, that incivility was costing them
12 million dollars a year. The second thing that happened was,
we heard from others in our academic field who said, “Well, people are reporting
this, but how can you really show it? Does people’s performance really suffer?” I was curious about that, too. With Amir Erez, I compared
those that experienced incivility to those that didn’t
experience incivility. And what we found is that those
that experience incivility do actually function much worse. “OK,” you may say. “This makes sense. After all, it’s natural
that their performance suffers.” But what about if you’re not
the one who experiences it? What if you just see or hear it? You’re a witness. We wondered if it affected witnesses, too. So we conducted studies where five participants would witness
an experimenter act rudely to someone who arrived late to the study. The experimenter said,
“What is it with you? You arrive late, you’re irresponsible. Look at you! How do you expect
to hold a job in the real world?” And in another study in a small group, we tested the effects of a peer
insulting a group member. Now, what we found was really interesting, because witnesses’
performance decreased, too — and not just marginally,
quite significantly. Incivility is a bug. It’s contagious, and we become carriers of it
just by being around it. And this isn’t confined to the workplace. We can catch this virus anywhere — at home, online, in schools
and in our communities. It affects our emotions,
our motivation, our performance and how we treat others. It even affects our attention
and can take some of our brainpower. And this happens not only
if we experience incivility or we witness it. It can happen even if we
just see or read rude words. Let me give you an example of what I mean. To test this, we gave people
combinations of words to use to make a sentence. But we were very sneaky. Half the participants got a list
with 15 words used to trigger rudeness: impolitely, interrupt, obnoxious, bother. Half the participants
received a list of words with none of these rude triggers. And what we found was really surprising, because the people who got the rude words were five times more likely to miss
information right in front of them on the computer screen. And as we continued this research, what we found is that those
that read the rude words took longer to make decisions, to record their decisions, and they made significantly more errors. This can be a big deal, especially when it comes
to life-and-death situations. Steve, a physician, told me
about a doctor that he worked with who was never very respectful, especially to junior staff and nurses. But Steve told me about
this one particular interaction where this doctor shouted
at a medical team. Right after the interaction, the team gave the wrong dosage
of medication to their patient. Steve said the information
was right there on the chart, but somehow everyone
on the team missed it. He said they lacked the attention
or awareness to take it into account. Simple mistake, right? Well, that patient died. Researchers in Israel have actually shown that medical teams exposed to rudeness perform worse not only
in all their diagnostics, but in all the procedures they did. This was mainly because
the teams exposed to rudeness didn’t share information as readily, and they stopped seeking
help from their teammates. And I see this not only in medicine
but in all industries. So if incivility has such a huge cost, why do we still see so much of it? I was curious, so we surveyed
people about this, too. The number one reason is stress. People feel overwhelmed. The other reason that people
are not more civil is because they’re skeptical
and even concerned about being civil or appearing nice. They believe they’ll appear
less leader-like. They wonder: Do nice guys finish last? Or in other words: Do jerks get ahead? (Laughter) It’s easy to think so, especially when we see
a few prominent examples that dominate the conversation. Well, it turns out,
in the long run, they don’t. There’s really rich research on this
by Morgan McCall and Michael Lombardo when they were at
the Center for Creative Leadership. They found that the number one reason
tied to executive failure was an insensitive, abrasive
or bullying style. There will always be some outliers
that succeed despite their incivility. Sooner or later, though, most uncivil people
sabotage their success. For example, with uncivil executives, it comes back to hurt them
when they’re in a place of weakness or they need something. People won’t have their backs. But what about nice guys? Does civility pay? Yes, it does. And being civil doesn’t just mean
that you’re not a jerk. Not holding someone down
isn’t the same as lifting them up. Being truly civil means
doing the small things, like smiling and saying
hello in the hallway, listening fully when
someone’s speaking to you. Now, you can have strong opinions, disagree, have conflict
or give negative feedback civilly, with respect. Some people call it “radical candor,” where you care personally, but you challenge directly. So yes, civility pays. In a biotechnology firm,
colleagues and I found that those that were seen as civil were twice as likely
to be viewed as leaders, and they performed significantly better. Why does civility pay? Because people see you
as an important — and a powerful — unique combination
of two key characteristics: warm and competent, friendly and smart. In other words, being civil
isn’t just about motivating others. It’s about you. If you’re civil, you’re more likely
to be seen as a leader. You’ll perform better, and you’re seen
as warm and competent. But there’s an even bigger story
about how civility pays, and it ties to one of the most
important questions around leadership: What do people want most
from their leaders? We took data from over
20,000 employees around the world, and we found the answer was simple: respect. Being treated with respect
was more important than recognition and appreciation, useful feedback, even opportunities for learning. Those that felt respected were healthier, more focused, more likely to stay
with their organization and far more engaged. So where do you start? How can you lift people up
and make people feel respected? Well, the nice thing is,
it doesn’t require a huge shift. Small things can make a big difference. I found that thanking people, sharing credit, listening attentively, humbly asking questions, acknowledging others and smiling has an impact. Patrick Quinlan, former CEO
of Ochsner Health [System], told me about the effects
of their 10-5 way, where if you’re within 10 feet of someone, you make eye contact and smile, and if you’re within five feet, you say hello. He explained that civility spread, patient satisfaction scores rose, as did patient referrals. Civility and respect can be used
to boost an organization’s performance. When my friend Doug Conant took over
as CEO of Campbell’s Soup Company in 2001, the company’s market share
had just dropped in half. Sales were declining, lots of people had just been laid off. A Gallup manager said it was
the least engaged organization that they had surveyed. And as Doug drove up
to work his first day, he noticed that the headquarters
was surrounded by barbwire fence. There were guard towers
in the parking lot. He said it looked like
a minimum security prison. It felt toxic. Within five years, Doug
had turned things around. And within nine years, they were setting
all-time performance records and racking up awards,
including best place to work. How did he do it? On day one, Doug told employees that he was going to have
high standards for performance, but they were going
to do it with civility. He walked the talk,
and he expected his leaders to. For Doug, it all came down
to being tough-minded on standards and tenderhearted with people. For him, he said it was all about
these touch points, or these daily interactions
he had with employees, whether in the hallway,
in the cafeteria or in meetings. And if he handled each touch point well, he’d make employees feel valued. Another way that Doug
made employees feel valued and showed them that
he was paying attention is that he handwrote over 30,000
thank-you notes to employees. And this set an example for other leaders. Leaders have about 400
of these touch points a day. Most don’t take long,
less than two minutes each. The key is to be agile and mindful
in each of these moments. Civility lifts people. We’ll get people to give more
and function at their best if we’re civil. Incivility chips away at people
and their performance. It robs people of their potential, even if they’re just working around it. What I know from my research is that
when we have more civil environments, we’re more productive, creative,
helpful, happy and healthy. We can do better. Each one of us can be more mindful and can take actions
to lift others up around us, at work, at home, online, in schools and in our communities. In every interaction, think: Who do you want to be? Let’s put an end to incivility bug and start spreading civility. After all, it pays. Thank you. (Applause)

You May Also Like

About the Author: Oren Garnes

100 Comments

  1. Why should you be respectful with people? In fact, why should you be considered? Oh, wait, because having good manners make other people be friendly with you, share their stories, form bonds and develop meaningful relationships! It's almost as if having a correct social behaviour is what let us survive while we were a primitive species!!

  2. Our country is being led by a narcissistic, disrespectful, instigator, who uses fear mongering to incite his minions. With leadership like that, your speech is falling on deaf ears.

  3. Incivility and workplace bullying are two sides of the same coin. Shame on companies who don't seriously endeavor to address and stop it and good for them when they're penalized through their bottom line or through lawsuit. Well deserved.

  4. Thank You! Finally someone to back what I have been saying all along. Awesome! Gonna share this with everyone I know.

  5. I have never been to a workplace, that is civil. My bright personality is loved by all, but for some reason, bosses love to snuff it out.

  6. There is never a good excuse for bad manners. I see incivility too often in Union workplaces – where I'd hope or expect to never find it. Probably explains a lot of the workplace shootings. Great talk – please continue to spread the word.

  7. Nobody writes thank you notes anymore. It really shocked me when I saw how surprised my friend was to receive a thank you card from me, after she had given me something. I also make an effort to write birthday cards too, if I don’t have a chance to get a little present. It’s important to show interest and appreciation.

  8. Some of these TED talkers must live in bubbles, oblivious to the reality of life the average person lives in. Just look at the bullshit they posted yesterday about different genders, I'm just waiting for the talk about how flat the earth is. Come on TED, make yourself great again and stop virtue signalling.

  9. what about enabling ignorant smokers who get more breaks than their coworkers. got a pink slip for bringing it to mngmnt. I have an attitude for complaining. I will never work with smokers again

  10. What's sad is that we apparently need scientific studies to tell us that being respectful to others is a good thing…..

  11. Nice idea. This isn't how the real world works. It's kindergarten out there with money. The bully wins until the contender bully takes him out.

  12. Well, this is the straw that broke this camel's back. I just don't see a lot of value out of TED talks, and this one is just another example of that. If you have to do a study to figure out that incivility will make people less motivated, well, I'll let that statement speak for itself.

  13. Join us part or full-time Dxn Malaysia Health and Wellness Based Global and Social Business opportunity for all positive progressive ambitious passionate Forward Thinking people.
    For Details Like and study my Facebook page JOIN4FREEDOM

  14. Be polite because it's more profitable or effective, this will never work. Polite people are polite even when it will cost them. Otherwise it is hypocrisy and it will never work .

  15. I really needed this talk today. I’m new at my work and I find my coworkers quite rude, maybe it’s because I’m new and don’t know how to do everything yet and that stresses them out, but the energy at this workplace feels so rigid. People don’t even greet each other.

  16. Lately, it looks like to me it turned in to a therapy for some ppl. People, mostly women speak about there mostly bad experience.

  17. Be respectful to your co-workers unless they are white males. Then you can talk down to them and treat them like sh17.

  18. Being respectful means to be kind with others, and they will be kind to you. Person will feel better and work harder if the climate in job place is nice. But the most crucial moment is a reason of being rude with surrounding. A stress destroys humanity in people. That's why, I guess, we have to fight with the reason.

  19. I agree with her because today I had a customer 15 minuets after his transaction tell me I over charged him when I clearly charged him for exactly what he asked for and mind you it wasn’t a big difference (only a $2 difference) he yelled at me in front of my whole staff and said “don’t argue with me just give me my refund” speaking so condescending and embarrassing me in front of everyone. Only someone looking for a confrontation is going to complain about $2. I told my supervisor I couldn’t continue working and was sent home. Some people feel so entitled that they treat others as inferior.

  20. 400 touch points a day … less than 2 minutes per … minimum 400 minutes, maximum 800 … so … between 6.6 and 13.2 hours per day.

  21. Guys this all may seem ridiculous, obvious, and redundant to you, and I feel the same way, but the reality is that many people think that to manage a business, you have to be stern.. and that only snowballs. I worked for a place for 2 weeks before I quit without notice.. the work was 95% the same as my previous job, but the dynamic was awful. They treated new people like imbeciles, even with my 5 years experience. And you better not screw ANYTHING up because you would be berated about it constantly. I don't know how they kept anybody around that place.

  22. This is so much better of a message than how to be an ally in the workplace. Hint, only one of these videos actually promotes equality.

  23. It's weird, based on your example of a guy showing up late, I would preform better because I would understand that the moderator has the same beliefs I do. Being late is unacceptable.

  24. When comes the talk where we show methods of being civil while challenging others, as is done using Street Epistemology?

  25. The reason why my engineering teacher is disrespectful to most of his students is 1: he worked for the army and 2: he doesn't like lazy engineer who don't take life too seriously, doesn't care if someone died if they did a lazier dangerous path to build a bridge

    He disrespect non-motivated future engineers more
    but respected and lift motivated actually good engineer higher.

  26. Maybe the problem is the highering of people who are fake from the first interview to when you end up walking them out the door.
    Or, you have some many rules that your only enforcement of them is to the benefit of the manipulators of said rules.

  27. Around the DC metro area, there are a lot of people that don't know how to act in the office due to racism, bias, childishness, immaturity, sexual harassment, bullying and just being real nasty. I don't like this. How you are at home shouldn't be brought to the office. Everyone who is an adult should carry themselves as normal adults. That way, people losing their minds and causing stressful situation and ultimately causing "harm" won't happen. This makes sense. Human resource is not very good in stopping workplace harassment sometimes. Sometimes, they act like everyone that is causing the workplace harassment is more important than the person doing the reporting. Human resource department shouldn't be tolerant of issues in the office and solve them immediately.

  28. Follow-up question I want to work on in the future:
    If incivility is so harmful, and civility is so helpful, then
    1. How do incivil people get leadership positions?
    2. How come incivility is associated with leadership so much these days. Or said differently; why is incivility a current trend within modern leadership?
    3. How come firms with incivil leaders do so well (Google, Facebook, Tesla etc.)

    Makes you think: is there a flipside of incivility? Might it be good? Do we unconsciously value it? I hope not, but it seems like it though.

  29. "Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded. (The Noble Qur'an. Surah An Nahl. Verse:90)"

    "All mankind is from Adam and Eve.  An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white; [none have superiority over another] except by piety and good action.  Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.  Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly.  Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves." (The last sermon of Prophet Muhammad)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVY8pwx9B74

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Omh4oG8T_Fw

  30. I agree. respect is a requirement of a smoothly integrated work environment. A well oiled machine runs better than dry friction.

  31. How do organizations effectively handle people who are always rude? It seems like HR and Managers are ineffective, and they need research into strategies.

  32. This is an excellent speech. As a bullying expert (both in school and workplace environments), the speaker did a phenomenal job making a clear distinction between civility and incivility and the effects of both. Unfortunately we have to constantly remind people how to be respectful and be kind to one another.

  33. When a job is MORE important than the PERSON, then you know animals have better instincts than us! May be we should learn from the wild about RESPECT.

  34. Damn right.. especially in hospital (at least malaysia) and it was much more disgusting whey they said those were normal and u just had to suck it up.

  35. Sad reality: my first job at a major philippine credit card firm, i was belittled and fired. That was from 2016 and up until today, i have this vindictiveness to get them back even if i am now at a more satisfying and fulfilling job. Lesson here: this negative attitude puts a chip on a person's shoulder that they carry even when they are already successful.

  36. Wonder if the current administration has seen this video and whether it would actually make them better leaders?

  37. Thanks for the video. My work environment is pretty negative so I came here. I will try to use this information today and see how it goes

  38. The irony is, negativity works–at least in the short term. Everyone is familiar with the story of the tyrannical boss who is feared. Some supervisors are expected, even encouraged by those over them, to bully their employees. Meanwhile, companies, governments, and public schools claim to have a zero tolerance policy.

  39. Thank you so much for your work. Toxic workplaces are harmful and wasteful. Not many people even recognize it and much less do the work to change it. People just accept toxic behavior as office politics. Thank you again for your work!

  40. Yes, Doug pulled his top 350 global leaders and provided them with the key directive to be civil. Sadly, it is easier said than done. Good thing Doug speaks softly and carries a big stick. He replaced 300 of the global leaders over three years to make it happen. I doubt any modern CEO would have the same courage to do the same.

  41. Everything is so true. When I started at the job I'm in now, I had a boss that would yell at you or make you feel bad for making a mistake and wouldnt apologize if she was in the wrong. What's worse was that she had favorites, and I wasn't one of them. When I was put to answer phones in one occasion, I was very nervous and insecure, and it showed really bad. Now 1 year later, I have a different boss. He doesn't yell or make you feel stupid. He talks to everyone and is fun with all of us. I find that he is much more encouraging. I've started answering the phones again and not to toot my own horn, I've gotten waaaay better and I feel like I can freely ask for help without being judged or told "JUST MAKE THE PHONE CALL!"

  42. Women bring all these bullshit snowflake politics to work.You have to watch yourself even when joking with colleagues.This world has gone mad, trying hard to suppress any male behavior traits ,chasing the men who built this world to feel ashame about themselves.The serpent didn't choose Eve by mistake.

  43. This is what the world needs theres too much people putting people down when a little good can do a lot and everybody wins…. true equality…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *