Civility's impact on a business' bottom line

Civility's impact on a business' bottom line

Monday, March 20, 2017

We all know that positive civil discourse makes strong communities, but research shows that civility is essential for building strong and productive teams at work too.

Civility helps teams function better because employees feel safer, happier, and better, writes Georgetown University management professor Christine Porath in this round-up of research on civility in the workplace. For example, Porath finds that a little civility can have a big impact by increasing the amount of psychological safety people feel. One experiment showed that psychological safety was 35 percent higher when people were offered a suggestion civilly rather than uncivilly (in an interaction marked by inconsiderate interruption).

Another study at Google found that who was on a team mattered less than how team members interacted. Employees on teams with higher levels of psychological safety were more likely to make use of their teammates’ ideas and less likely to leave Google.

As with most components of workplace culture, the leadership of the organization sets the tone, according to Porath. When leaders are civil, it increases performance and creativity, allows for early mistake detection and the initiative to take actions, and reduces emotional exhaustion. However, leadership cannot impose civility. Employees must engage in ongoing conversations defining precisely what civility means.

The bottom line with regard to workplace civility: a civil workplace positively affects the bottom line.

For more insights on the impact of civility in the workplace, read Porath's recent Harvard Business Review article.