Twice this month I observed small business owners chewing out their staff inappropriately. One wrote a rude note to an employee and the other basically belittled a staff member in front of me. The owners felt justified because of their load running the business. They were frustrated that no one could get it like they could. What they didn’t get was the damage they had caused.
Assistant professor Christine Porath at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business has researched the subject of incivility in the workplace for nearly a decade.
Her findings include: one in eight workers who feel disrespected will ultimately leave an unpleasant workplace. Half of the employees who experience incivility will lose time fretting about future interactions, and one-fourth will deliberately reduce their work efforts. A few will retaliate by stealing or sabotaging equipment. (USC Marshall Magazine, Fall 2005) I would say this is an impact on productivity!
Finding and keeping good staff is one of the biggest issues faced by every small business. Porath and Pearson (a co-researcher) make these suggestions:
- Set zero-tolerance expectations.
- Take an honest look in the mirror.
- Weed out trouble before it enters your organization.
- When incivility occurs, hammer it.
- Don’t make excuses for powerful instigators.
- Invest in post-departure interviews.
Think about your own behavior at times. How do you treat your staff? I know I can easily get frustrated and have to be careful about the tone I use. The cost of not being nice (or at least professional) could be costing your company more than you think.
(This was originally posted in 2007.)