“Civility in the context of business is, first-world-feel-good bullshit”, is what I maintained, in the early part of my career, in the years when I was new to tasting success (promotion meant success to me back then, nothing more and nothing less. It doesn’t anymore though). As I bagged my first few elevations, I became responsible for a team and not just my own output, things started to break a little. My razor sharp belief started cutting in the tranquility of my team and there came a point when I just did not know how to make do and proceed. It all seemed impossible, everyone in my team was elder to me and agreements were so seldom that I thought that my views and ideas weren’t made for collaboration. The library has been the place for finding answers, for me, for a majority of my life, so faced with this difficulty, I applied for leave and headed to British library to find a solution. There I got introduced to the legend Mr. Thomas hobs and his masterful work, in 1642, he argued that the mere act of disagreement is offensive. This simple sentence in that book came to my rescue. I understood, that I will have to prepare myself to like and even in cases that appear sensible love disagreements. I returned & resumed rejuvenated with that thought, things kept on becoming simpler and in about 8 months I nailed another success. Around the same time, another writer who I revere venerably, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, wrote in one of his academic papers that for democracies to succeed, disagreements and dissent is vital, that we must strive to be a society that is fair in encouraging its people to express their differences but at same time the discourse must remain civil and peaceful for it lead to meaningful consequences and therefore it is important that we agree on the ground rules of disagreement. Dr. Tharoor said it a lot more eloquently, I’m paraphrasing it in my own words. These two writers formed the basis of my tolerance at the workplace and gave me rationals to remain cautious and well behaved while at work, a place where I compete with others to succeed, earn both fame and wealth. My reading list from there on always had writers who have written on tolerance, respect, civility, dissent, and harmony of views, one such brilliant mind is Teresa bejan who has written extensively about the long history of civility and religious tolerance and lack of it, in society in the 17thcentury England and the US. After Trump’s victory, her work broke its record of sell, one can only imagine why.
My current view is that.
There can’t be diversity without tolerance to disagreement and without opposing views real progress in our word is impossible.
Civility is no longer a vague and fuzzy virtue to me but a cornerstone to creating a high-performance culture, in my view. Continuing my quest to learn ways to succeed in professional career I read more as organizational behavior and its implication on the economy became an interesting area of research, psychologists are dedicating a lot of attention to this subject lately, with the Intent of measuring how a certain set behaviors result in productivity and therefore create profitable organizations and what are those traits that cause people to finish 2nd sometimes without even realizing. Christine Porath is a known name in the circuit of behavioral science and behavioral economics, she after being humiliated at her first work chose to go back to the university and join a research program to understand the concern deeply and come up with her elucidation of impact. In her illustrious work she found the below striking facts:
After an incivil encounter, it was absorbed that:
Ø60% of those directly impacted cut back on their efforts.
Ø80% of them lost as much as 1.5 productive work day worrying/thinking about what had happened.
Ø12% left the job
It was also seen that those who witnessed disrespectful behavior but were not directly subjected to it were also affected in ballpark figures.
The comprehensive research also propounded that, when people are treated with respect and sensitivity, below things happen.
Ø56% of employees are healthier ( fewer sick leaves)
Ø92% of people are more focused on the Job at hand
ØIt improves retention by 1.1X
ØAnd the workforce are 55% more engaged.
Cisco was among one of the first organizations to pay heed to her study and they estimated a loss of 12 million dollars annually to incivility in their organization, what followed in that organization is history. 12 million dollars is a fortune for most of humanity & that was the cost of being disrespectful.
I wrote an article in July 2017 on how being “nice was going out of business”, will link it down below at the end of this article for you to read, should it interest you.
One of the gifts of education and upbringing is good etiquette, civil manners, and polished behavior. It is impractical to be Victorian in conduct when situations go south of the expectation but the whole point of being nice is not when things are warm and cozy, behaviors are tested in salty waters, if you stay cool when the heat is turned up, only then can you be called halcyon, isn’t it. The point is why do organizations misunderstand the value of civility? Why is disrespect used as a tool, sometimes even strategic one to keep the situation in check? Why do otherwise intellectual and wise people resort of hurling insensitive insults to make a point? Targeting is uncool, in all circumstances, whether you do it to gender, a cast, a creed, a culture, a set of people either above or below you in whatever scale that you measure things, situations and people on. Human history tells us that discrimination of all kinds has had a disastrous impact on peace, progress, and prosperity and yet despite the common knowledge things do go out of control, all the time.
If you are a leader of any stature, both “why” does it happen and “what” should be done about it, should be of interest to you. If you are someone who understands just money, all the more, because, hey, when a giant like Cisco can get bugged to the tune of 12 million, imagine, how much this luring bad behavior must cost you? On per person, per incident basis .. chances are that if you are an org smaller than Cisco with fewer heads to handle the proportionate impact will be higher, any day. Unless of course, one chooses to decidedly and foolishly look the other way.
“What” is straightforward, let’s pick up the “why” first.
Not all experience that one might claim to have essentially contribute to expertise, likewise not all beliefs are always knowledge. Our thinking gets shaped by our experiences, our learning, our surroundings, and our hopes and aspirations, plainly put. We tend to become what we experience .. for better or for worse. The ball boy learns the rules of the game without playing it similarly we unconsciously pick up patterns as they occur around us. Toxic environments do not cause healthy outcomes. And it impacts the collective organization more than any single employee or group of people because it is always easy for the employee to look for greener pastures but orgs can’t choose to change with so much of ease and as frequently for reasons you would imagine, I assume. The problem really is that of bias. Imminent psychologists for the sake of simplicity categorizes all biases in three categories.
1) Confirmation Bias
a.Finding evidence to confirm your existing beliefs – We are all victims of it. We create a perception and then see everything though pre-applied notion. Problem is that not always all perceptions are fact-based. If you have known something or someone for a long time it doesn’t always mean that information intimating from them are always correct. They can be just as incorrect or as incapable of presenting the whole picture as something or someone you might have known for a relatively shorter period of time or may be in the process of knowing. You need to listen more and judge less.
2)Dunning – Kruger
a.Thinking we know more than we do- This is a rather dangerous ailment I would say, mostly seen in accomplished people, they seem to disregard things easily that do not conform with their views. What they comfortably miss is that between they have experienced a certain situation in the past and now, a lot has changed. People are not what they used to be let’s say 30 years ago. Old rules won’t make you win the new game.
a.New information contracting our existing beliefs – Obstinacy, is a thing it makes us hate conflicting worldviews, so much so, that we get irritated really quickly often to the point where angry public outburst becomes our second character. You need to understand that in a world as diverse as our there will be more than one method of achieving a common goal. Letting oneself adventure a little is harmless.
Literacy wrt the subject and misinformation on account of sourcing knowledge can cause us to gain intolerance too. To make real progress and real quick, we must enable ‘free thinking’
For “what” part of the equation: Below three steps can be a good beginning towards correcting biases and therefore getting rid of belief systems that legitimize incivility, intolerance, and disrespectfulness.
1)Take inventory of your own biases
2)Evaluate your sources
3)Open yourself up to new ideas, thoughts, people and belief systems.
It is rather easy to lose control: shouting, insulting, targeting doesn’t require courage, decision, skill or even intellect, it just needs you to be in a place of control and authority, being civil and yet firm and decisive is something that really needs dedicated application of skill, mind, thoughtful reasoning and above all restraint. Making people feel bad won’t ever pay you back, neither in short nor in the long term, don’t believe me listen to this lovely song!