I was inspired to write this post having read Dr. Christine Porath’s piece in the weekend WSJ. I feel the timing couldn’t be better. I love guidance based on research and it also helps that it’s the only way to behave. Dr. Porath is a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Business and her latest book can be viewed here.

The gist of her article is that based on her comprehensive research, civility pays. Here are a few bullets from the article:

  • studies show that when employees don’t feel respected, their performance suffers
  • prior to a word puzzle experiment, participants were split into two groups, one group was rudely admonished by a person posing as a busy professor, their scores were 61% lower than those who hadn’t beed treated rudely.
  • in a recent survey, conducted by Dr. Porath, involving 20,000 employees, published in HBR, those that felt their leader demonstrated respect reported a 92% greater focus and prioritization! Look you can take that kind of research to the bank. How wrong can the research be?

I’ve ran businesses in publishing, investment banking, niche manufacturing and software. I’ve operated for nearly half my career in the UK and half in the US and I’m telling you that showing respect is the key skill to moving people forward. A few years ago I published a blog post on remarkable research regarding the impact of negative feedback. The results were compelling, the ideal ratio of positive to negative comments was 5.6:1 ie nearly 6 times the number of positive to negative comments. This ratio is supported by research done by John Gottman into happy marriages. The ratio of positive to negative comments for a happy marriage, 5:1. I clearly need to lie more!

Some tools I’ve deployed over the years to maintain civility:

  1. Show respect towards attendees of a meeting by showing up prepared, and arriving early (on time is late).
  2. Encourage direct reports to bring you their priority problems if they are struggling, but they must always wrap it in a solution.
  3. Teach people the basics of departments they are not part of. Watch their respect for colleagues, outside their domain expertise, go through the roof.
  4. Find something positive to say about a suggestion no matter how much you disagree.
  5. Point out when someone is opining, without evidence to support their assertion.
  6. Teach people to follow through on their promises even if means delivering bad news.
  7. Question someones stance on an issue to understand why they believe it. You might be surprised by the facts.
  8. When tensions are high, the word “help” is often underutilized. As in, help me understand why that is the best way forward.
  9. Constructive feedback will always be accepted if it’s coming from someone who wants to see you grow.
  10. Remember rudeness defines you, not the person receiving it.

What tools have you deployed to maintain civility? Reach out at Ian@TPPBoston.com