Are You MEAN Business?

Communication Kindness Respect


Key Point: How hard is it to be civil? Kind? Really?? What the heck has happened to us? Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times Sunday Review entitled No Time to Be Nice at Work. I guess we have enough time to behave stupidly at work but not enough to treat each other with respect. The quotes below are from that NYT article, which has caused a stir amongst readers. 

What prompted me to write this happened minutes before I sat down to blog. A clerk at a book store (Audrey’s in Edmonton , Alberta) was unfortunately the inspiration. There was literally no one in this downtown location on a Saturday afternoon. My wife (one of the politest people on Earth) wanted to buy a book called The Mosquito Brothers for our 8-year-old grandson. She asked if the store carried it. The reaction of the employee was shocking… “Yes, they had it,” and then she dismissively went about her “business.” Out we went… No book for us, and no sale for her (I guess the retail book business is just too good to bother treating customers well?) Rude people treat employees poorly AND that rolls down to customers. Back to professor Porath’s article:

“People who treat others with disrespect have succeeded despite their incivility, not because of it. Studies by Morgan W. McCall Jr., a professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California, including those with Michael Lombardo, while they were with the Center for Creative Leadership, have shown that the No. 1 characteristic associated with an executive’s failure is an insensitive, abrasive or bullying style… More… Although in surveys people say they are afraid they will not rise in an organization if they are really friendly and helpful, the civil do succeed. My recent studies published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, show that behavior involving politeness and regard for others in the workplace pays off. In a study in a biotechnology company, those seen as civil were twice as likely to be viewed as leaders…” And, Robert M. Sapolsky, a Stanford professor and the author of ‘Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,’ argues that when people experience intermittent stressors like incivility for too long or too often, their immune systems pay the price. We also may experience major health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and ulcers.”

Porath goes on to point out, “Bosses produce demoralized employees through a string of actions: Walking away from a conversation because they lose interest; answering calls in the middle of meetings without leaving the room; openly mocking people by pointing out their flaws or personality quirks in front of others; reminding their subordinates of their ‘role’ in the organization and ‘title’; taking credit for wins, but pointing the finger at others when problems arise. Employees who are harmed by this behavior, instead of sharing ideas or asking for help, hold back.”

Character Moves: 

  1. It’s so simple and yet obviously hard because respectful behavior requires both self/external awareness and INTENTION!! Small actions we can all take include listening, smiling, sharing and thanking others more. In one unpublished experiment Porath conducted, a smile and simple thanks (as compared with not doing this) resulted in people being viewed as 27 percent warmer, 13 percent more competent and 22 percent more civil.
  1. The second element of the Character Triangle is RESPECT. It’s not so much about treating others as we want to be treated, but treating others as THEY want to be treated. It may be hard to believe that it’s necessary, but in our organization we are intentionally reacquainting EVERY team member with the skill of how to make a personal emotional connection with others. Don’t assume you or others you work with know and have the skill to do so. Research says many of us have lost our way. It’s NOT time that’s missing, it’s awareness and thoughtful intention that’s been overwhelmed by all the distracting “noise” in our heads. Be RESPECTFUL and really know that you are. 

Civility in The Triangle 


One Millennial View: Not only is it so much EASIER to be nice versus being mean (read: drama avoidance/bridges in tact), it’s most beneficial for you too. Let’s play devil’s advocate and pretend there’s an argument otherwise. If you truly have a tough time justifying being kind, that’s too bad, but let’s pretend you feel challenged to stand your ground and don’t want to seem weak (we have an old blog refuting that btw). Here’s a trick: By being nice, being considerate, being the “bigger person” when you’d otherwise want to be rude, it also makes you come across as the “cool and collected” one, the one “above it” with the confidence and desire to progress further. So you choose, do you want to seem level headed and moving forward? Or is it better to just be known as the “mean person?” I know which one I’d rather work for.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis