I think we’ve all, at one time or another, worked with one of “those” people- the ones who are rude, who take all the credit, who won’t look up from their phones during meetings, send an email when they should call, or make you do work that they find boring or unimportant. Before I read Mastering Civility, I assumed that this was behavior I had to endure until the perpetrator got another job or experienced a spontaneous personality overhaul. Christine Porath asserts that tolerating incivility in the workplace is a bad idea because it spreads like a virus. Once rudeness or intolerance enters the scene, it effects everyone it touches and can sink the ship causing everything from profit loss to poor job performance. Throughout the book, Porath teaches the reader how to recognize incivility in oneself, how to assist coworkers in reforming poor behavior, and how to end working relationships with employees who either can’t or won’t toe the line. Sounding a clarion call for employers and employees alike, Porath rallies readers everywhere to join her in making the workplace civil again.

“Incivility usually arises not from malice but from ignorance. I started my research thinking that jerks out there were intentionally ruining workplaces; I now see that most bad behavior reflects a lack of self-awareness. We don’t want to hurt others, but we do.” pg 12. Until I read this book, I thought that too.

“…incivility has a way of pulling people off track and preventing them from doing their best. I’ve found this to be true in every study I’ve conducted. Even witnesses working around incivility take a hit.” pg 24. I thought that was especially chilling because Porath ran a bunch of studies. “Many people think of rudeness as a self-contained experience, limited to one person or interaction. In truth, incivility is a virus that spreads, making the lives of everyone exposed to it more difficult. … Left unchecked, incivility can drag down an entire organization, making everyone less kind, less patient, less energetic, less fun- simply less.” pg 39. Ewww, you got your incivility all over my desk.

Those are the don’ts. Here are a few do’s: “If you want to connect with your employee or team, lead with warmth. Most of us are in a hurry to prove our competence, but warmth contributes significantly more to other’s evaluations. .. It facilitates trust, information, and idea sharing.” pg 71 “… the single biggest complaint I hear from employees about their bosses is that they fail to tune in. Do yourself and others a favor: When you speak or meet with someone, put away your smartphone. Make others the priority.” pg 114. Amen.

I laughed when Porath suggested eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep to help foster a civil atmosphere in the workplace. Common sense stuff, yes, but how many of us have lashed out because we’re “hangry”? Change starts with you so: eat breakfast, people.

Recommended for people experiencing or who have experienced incivility in the workplace. Porath gives you some concrete methods to turn it all around. Some further business related reading that I’ve enjoyed: Do the Work, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work and The Art of Exceptional Living.

Thanks for reading!

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