A major problem is threatening companies across all industries in America, but it isn’t getting near the attention as seemingly more complicated business challenges like cash flow management, supply chain diversity, or market expansion strategy. In fact, its simplicity could be part of the reason why companies have not been swift in acting to find a solution. What’s the issue? Simply put, people just aren’t being nice to each other at work anymore.
We all know that “please” and “thank you” can go a long way, yet employees are pointing to a lack of civility in the workplace as a growing concern. A Harvard Business Review study found that 98% of employees have experienced incivility at work. In the same study, half of participants reported they were treated badly at least once a week.
Civility, or the deliberate practice of treating others with courtesy and politeness, is a straightforward idea, but many companies are failing to incorporate what should be an easy policy because they are not intentionally making it a focus. Without explicitly defining and communicating what civility in the workplace is for their organization, leaders can quickly find themselves faced with angry employees, disgruntled by their hostile work environment.
The rude encounters that have become a reality for so many workers are all but guaranteed to have a dramatic negative effect on employee satisfaction and, ultimately, employee retention. Acquiring good talent is an expensive endeavor for most businesses, making the need to retain existing employees an important and cost-effective initiative. While there is certainly no shortage of employee retention strategies commonly discussed in the business world, a focus on workplace civility may be the best solution hiding in plain sight.
Companies that prioritize fostering a culture of respect and kindness are likely to reap the benefit of increased employee retention compared to those that do not. Here’s why:
Communication is more effective
Effective communication is direct, honest, and sincere. When there is a mutual understanding of respect among coworkers, they can speak to each other more openly and freely. Companies that struggle to facilitate transparent communication are also likely to suffer from employee attrition. This is because one of the biggest hijackers of communication in an uncivil work environment is fear. Employees may fear saying the wrong thing, speaking up in meetings, and sharing information if they feel they could be met with rudeness from their peers for doing so.
Workers can be more productive
Collaboration is a hallmark of any productive workplace. When incivility is rampant, workers are less likely to collaborate, opting to work in isolation and silos instead. This is a breeding ground for a political work environment, which severely reduces an organization’s ability to be efficient. Too many of us have experienced the burden of managing our perception rather than our productivity as a result of being in a political environment. If leaders create a culture where employees respect and want to collaborate with each other, they can proactively deal with this problem and make their companies more productive.
Diversity and inclusion is embraced
Diversity in America’s workforce is increasing, making diversity and inclusion strategy a critical component of an organization’s success. The more diverse a work environment is, the greater the demand for civility. As workers from various backgrounds come together, leaders need to encourage group cohesion and respect for differences in order to be effective. Everyone wants to be treated with kindness regardless of their beliefs, value systems, or culture. Companies that excel at this will have more loyal employees in return.
Employee morale is boosted
When there is a lack of civility in the workplace, there is usually a lack of equality as well. Assignments are not delegated fairly or logically, people are rewarded for being yes-men, and good workers that were once engaged become checked out. Each of these issues can have a devastating impact on employee morale. Alternatively, workers that are treated fairly are more likely to see the value in being committed to the companies they work for and performing at their best.
Employees trust their management
In a civil workplace, leaders are able to establish strong relationships with their employees and earn their respect. This makes difficult situations such as providing feedback or correcting poor performance easier for managers to handle when they arise. For example, if employees know their feedback is coming from a good place, it is easier for them to be receptive to it. Without their employees’ trust, managers will find that even simple situations are harder to navigate through and retaining their employees will be an uphill battle.
The secret is officially out: companies that invest the time and effort in creating a work culture that values respect will have happier, more loyal employees. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day and overlook the importance of civility in the workplace, but the benefits are undeniable. So let’s do better to make our work environments more civil. Please and thank you.