Reduce Rudeness and Give Feedback that Works

Don’t let outwardly positive communications mask rudeness. Positivity can be misused when an overemphasis on political correctness means issues are brushed aside. In my opinion, there is such a thing as too much niceness, too much ‘correctness’, and that’s not good either. Open communications must allow for dissent and reality-based conversations. Negative comments should be aired, but only in effective ways. Point out mistakes to clear the way for progress and appreciation, but be aware of your tone and word choices. The one statement that best predicts employee engagement is “I have a supervisor or someone at work who seems to care about me as a person,” reveals Gallup research. A genuine interest in your direct reports encourages them to give their best. Create group norms for how people should handle negative and positive behaviors. Share effective ways to give feedback and hold each other accountable. For example, according to a Forbes article, How to Give Feedback that Works, avoid these common errors that turn feedback into fights: Choose one issue at a time. Focusing on too many skills or behaviors at once is confusing and overwhelming. Don’t be too critical or focus too heavily on the negative. Feedback should inspire the other person to improve, not make them wallow in where they went wrong. At the same time, feedback shouldn’t avoid real problems. If there’s an issue, don’t be afraid to state it. Don’t be vague – use specific examples, and connect those behaviors to impact. Leave plenty of time for the recipient to ask or answer questions and respond to what you’ve said. Rudeness can’t survive in...

Rudeness at Work: What Leaders Can Do

Leaders can have a tremendous positive (or negative) impact on the incidence of rudeness. Many leaders are under extraordinary pressure to do more with less, which often impacts their own well-being and tolerance levels. I hear stories about incredible executive stress in the sessions I do coaching. In a blog by Australian speaker Graeme Cowan, The Surprising Costs of Workplace Rudeness, he writes that the two main strategies for reducing rudeness are relatively straightforward: 1. Stay physically and mentally healthy. 2. Model the right behavior. “There has never been a more important time for leaders to place priority on their own health. Identify strategies that boost your energy level. Take stock of your purpose, passions and positive strengths to become more robust and resilient.” Every person is different, but common habits that improve resilience include regular exercise, eating well and getting enough rest. It’s also essential to develop supportive relationships and outside interests. It can take constant vigilance to keep the workplace civil. Let your guard down, and rudeness tends to creep into everyday interactions. Incorporate the following strategies to foster civility: Manage Your Own Behavior. Leaders set the tone, so be aware of your actions and how others perceive you. What you say and do is weighted and easily magnified. Model good behavior (actions and words) and emotional intelligence. In one survey, 25% of managers who admitted to behaving badly said their leaders and role models were rude. If those who climb the corporate ladder tolerate or embrace uncivil behavior, employees are likely to follow suit. So, turn off your iPhone during meetings, pay attention to questions, and...

Rudeness Repels Customers

Consumers are uncomfortable when exposed to rudeness, whether it’s waiters berating busboys or managers criticizing store clerks. Disrespectful behavior causes many patrons to walk out without making a purchase. In The Price of Incivility, a January-February 2013 Harvard Business Review article Professors Christine Porath and Christine Pearson write about their research on incivility at work. In one experiment, half of the participants witnessed a bank representative publicly reprimanding a peer for incorrectly handling credit-card information. Only 20% of those who saw the encounter said they would use the bank’s services in the future (compared with 80% of customers who didn’t see the interaction). And nearly two-thirds of those who watched the exchange said they would feel anxious dealing with any bank employee. Managing rudeness is expensive. Regardless of the circumstances, people don’t like to see others treated badly. Besides the loss of customers, there’s a cost associated with complaints among workers. HR professionals say that just one incident can soak up weeks of attention and effort. According to a study conducted by Robert Half (Accountemps) and reported in Fortune, managers and executives at Fortune 1000 firms spend 13% of their work time, or 7 weeks a year, mending employee relationships and dealing with incivility’s aftermath. And costs soar, of course, when consultants or attorneys must be brought in to help settle a situation. What’s the Leadership Solution? In my opinion and experience, based on the work I do, the only way to prevent rudeness and incivility is to change the way an organization approaches problems. Leaders must be aware of the company’s culture: Does it consciously or unconsciously allow...

The Realities of Rudeness

Rudeness, whether verbal or behavioral, greatly contributes to deteriorating team spirit and poor performance. And it’s not always blatant or obvious. I see this when I go into companies for the work I do. Joel H. Neuman, director of the Center for Applied Management at the State University of New York at New Paltz, cites several common examples: Talking about someone behind his or her back Interrupting others when they’re speaking or working Flaunting status or authority; acting in a condescending manner Belittling someone’s opinion to others Being late to meetings; failing to return phone calls or respond to memos Giving others the silent treatment Insults, yelling and shouting Verbal forms of sexual harassment Staring, dirty looks or other negative eye contact While it’s truly overbearing to work for a boss who barks orders and belittles employees, most rude behaviors occur between coworkers. The more subtle and malicious forms of rudeness include gossiping, backstabbing, spreading rumors and sabotaging others’ work. Simply witnessing incivility has negative consequences. In one experiment, published in The Price of Incivility, a January-February 2013 Harvard Business Review article by Professors Christine Porath and Christine Pearson, people who had observed poor behavior performed 20% worse on word puzzles. Witnesses to incivility were less likely than others to help out, even when a colleague had no apparent connection to the uncivil act. Only 25% of those who witnessed incivility volunteered to help (compared to 51% of those who saw nothing). People are 30% less creative when they’re treated rudely, according to an experiment conducted by Amir Erez, a University of Florida management professor. Subjects produced 25% fewer...

The Rampant Rise of Rudeness

Are we letting our ‘frank discussions’ veer into rudeness and incivility at work? “These may not be the best of times, and these may not be the worst of times, but for sheer rudeness, these times beat the dickens out of most times.” ~ Roger McElvey, ‘Mr. Manners,’ Men’s Health, May 1995 While I see plenty of leadership development programs that propose social and emotional intelligence, we’re not doing so well in our workplace interactions. Over the last 14 years, thousands of workers have been polled on how they’re treated on the job – and a whopping 98% have reported experiencing uncivil behavior. In 2011, half said they were treated rudely at least once a week, up from 25% in 1998. These startling facts were published in The Price of Incivility, a January-February 2013 Harvard Business Review article by Professors Christine Porath and Christine Pearson. Most managers know incivility is wrong, but some fail to recognize its tangible costs. Those at the receiving end of rudeness often punish their offenders and the organization, although most hide or bury their feelings and don’t view themselves as vengeful. After polling 800 managers and employees in 17 industries, Porath and Pearson learned how people’s reactions play out. Among workers who have been on the receiving end of incivility: 48% intentionally decreased their work effort. 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work. 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work. 80% lost work time worrying about the incident. 63% lost work time avoiding the offender. 66% said their performance declined. 78% said their commitment to the organization declined. 12% said they left...