written by Courtney Lynch

Manners, Appreciation and Civility

There’s a rising tide of renewed interest in workplace civility.  Once a popular topic in the 1950’s, the idea of kindness and etiquette is now back at the forefront of workplace culture discussions.  Some might say it’s a trend.  Others believe that workplace civility would be a breath of fresh air in the cultures they’re experiencing and would solve many of the problems that exist in their environments.

Here at Lead Star, we connect civility with leadership.  If you are acting in ways that are consistent with influencing outcomes and inspiring others (our definition of what a leader does), you are likely exceeding the bar of civility.

The recent focus on civility in the workplace has a lot to do with how a lack of it impacts productivity.  According to business professors Christine Pearson and Christine Porath, authors of The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It, the American workplace loses an estimated $300 billion annually in productivity because of incivility and resulting employee stress.  Fortune 1000 executives spend roughly seven weeks per year resolving employee conflicts and 95% of Americans say they’ve experienced rudeness at work.

Timeless solutions to modern challenges are often the most effective.  I was recently giving a keynote address at a large government agency.  Before my presentation, the host of the event mentioned that the agency is starting a Civility and Business Etiquette Employee Resource Group.  She then shared ten practices from an historical employee newsletter that offer guidance on how to be civil.  The newsletter was dated September 15, 1951.  Here are the practices:

  • Speak to people. There is nothing as nice as a cheerful word of greeting.
  • Smile at people. It takes 72 muscles to frown, only 14 to smile.
  • Call people by name.  The sweetest music to anyone’s ears is the sound of their own name.
  • Be friendly. If you would like to have a friend, then be one.
  • Be cordial.  Speak and act as if everything you do is a genuine pleasure.
  • Be sincerely interested in others.  You can like almost everybody if you try.
  • Be generous with praise, cautious with criticism.
  • Be considerate with the feelings of others—it will be appreciated.
  • Be thoughtful of the opinions of others. There are usually three sides to a controversy—your’s, the other person’s, and the right one.
  • Be alert to give service.  What counts most in life is what we do for others.

The principles of etiquette and civility never go out of style.  Both are as timeless as leadership.

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