Kindness pays

be-king-everyone-fighting-hard-battleIan Maclaren once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Over one hundred years later, Harvard Business Review published a whitepaper that could conceivably change the saying to, “Be kind, for the alternative will cost you.”

The paper in question, “The Price of Incivility: Lack of Respect Hurts Morale – and the Bottom Line,” details the results of a research study conducted by Christine Porath and Christine Pearson, who sought to put a dollar sign to incivility.

Not surprisingly, the study showed that people don’t like being treated rudely. Nor do they like witnessing others being treated rudely. But the impact of incivility is broader reaching and affects the overall cost to the organization. HR professionals report that one incident can command weeks of attention and effort. What about those on the receiving end of incivility? They report they’ve intentionally decreased their work effort, spent less time at their desk, focused less on work quality, and lost work time spent worrying and avoiding the offender. Even worse, they’ve taken out their frustration on customers.

But there is a way to foster a civil work environment. It begins with leadership modeling the expected behavior. To do this on a personal level, start by making a realistic assessment of where you are, which includes asking for feedback, and then set personal goals for improvement. If your goal is to improve civility across an organization, the article recommends the following actions:

  • Hire for civility: Conduct group interviews with candidates to gauge cultural fit
  • Teach civility: Use video with key employees to identify opportunities for improvement
  • Create group norms: Establish expectations that are enforced by the team
  • Reward good behavior: Create a peer employee recognition program
  • Penalize bad behavior: Confront offenders and let them go if improvements aren’t made
  • Conduct post-departure interviews: Talk to former employees six months after they’ve left to get a more accurate picture of your work environment

Porath and Pearson report that incivility costs the companies they worked with millions of dollars. Cisco alone estimated that incivility cost them $12 million a year.

Prioritizing kindness in the workplace just makes sense … and cents.

2 Responses

  1. Carrie,

    Great post.

    This research on incivility resonated with us here at Isurus as well (

    It brings self-awareness that most of us engage in “thoughtless” behaviors (not returning calls, checking email during a conversation, etc.) that erode a culture of civility and respect.

  2. Thank you, Jeana, and thank you also for initially sharing the research findings with me!

    I really appreciate your point about the “thoughtless” behaviors, as it reiterates the old adage that it’s the little things that matter most. A good lesson to not overlook them.

    Thanks again!

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