Excuse me: Creating a polite culture pays off
Do you treat your co-workers as well as you treat your best customers?
Most organizations recognize the cost of rude behavior to customers. Nearly 70% of customers will stop doing business with an organization because of rude behavior, and almost 60% will advise friends and family members to steer clear of those places. Those numbers are up about 10 percentage points each from just a year ago, according to the latest figures from the report “Civility in America 2011”.
In that report by the public relations agency Weber Shandwick, 43% of Americans surveyed said they have experienced incivility at work, and 38% said the problem at work is worse than it was just a few years ago.
Incivility in the workplace can lead to employee conflict, decreased productivity, poor morale and high turnover. The toll: billions of dollars a year, according to the authors of The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It.
To promote a polite workplace you can do much more than remember to say “Please” and “Thank you” throughout the day. Show your staff how important their behaviors are:
- Set standards. Often frustration results from people having different expectations about what is polite. Gather your team to define a set of team norms like these: We will respond to every email and voice message within 24 hours, even if all we can say is “I’m working on that.” We will not check smartphones during meetings. We will hold group conversations in conference rooms, not in workstations or hallways where we might disturb co-workers.
- Train new teammates. Although some people blame the decline of good manners in the workplace on the younger generation, don’t assume that people know how to behave at work just because they’ve held a job before. Include civility among the topics you cover in your new employee orientation.
- Show the impact. Employees always are more likely to comply with policies and standards when they understand the reasons behind them. So don’t just model good behavior—talk about it. Example: “I was ready to reject Carl’s proposal to buy new software, but I’m glad that I took the time to hear him out. By listening to his argument I now understand how that will save us much more than it will cost.”
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