Writing at Quartz, Christine Porath, a professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, points to a lack of civility and respect as the silent killer of workplace productivity today:
What are the costs of employees feeling disrespected? Over the past 20 years, I have researched this question. I’ve polled tens of thousands of workers worldwide about how they’re treated at work. Nearly half of those surveyed in 1998 reported they were treated rudely at least once a month, which rose to 55% in 2011 and 62% in 2016. Though the toll is sometimes hidden, the costs of incivility are tremendous.
Of the nearly 800 managers and employees across 17 industries Christine Pearson of the Thunderbird School of Global Management and I polled, those who didn’t feel respected performed worse. Forty-seven percent of those who were treated poorly intentionally decreased the time spent at work, and 38% said they deliberately decreased the quality of their work. Sixty-six percent reported their performance declined and 78% said their commitment to the organization had declined.
Incivility and disrespect affect performance in various ways, Porath elaborates, increasing stress and harming employees’ mental and even physical health. Even employees who are not themselves the victims of disrespectful behavior, they can lose time and energy to worrying about how to respond or whether they will become targets. Many of these employees leave their jobs, often without telling their managers why. Finally, an uncivil environment is toxic to collaboration.
Porath’s argument about the importance of respect is consistent with the findings of the latest Global Talent Monitor from CEB, now Gartner. This quarterly report provides workforce insights on global and country-level changes about what attracts, engages, and retains employees, based on data from more than 22,000 employees in over 40 countries. (CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can peruse the full set of insights from Global Talent Monitor.)
As part of our survey, we asked employees for the most important elements of the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that influenced their decision to accept their most recent job.
Psychological safety is increasingly seen as a key factor in maximizing the performance of teams: When employees feel psychologically safe, they are more capable of taking risks, communicating candidly, and thinking creatively. Drawing on the lessons Paul Santagata, Head of Industry at Google, learned during the tech giant’s two-year study on team performance, Laura Delizonna looked at some ways managers can foster psychological safety at the Harvard Business Review last week:
1. Approach conflict as a collaborator, not an adversary. We humans hate losing even more than we love winning. A perceived loss triggers attempts to reestablish fairness through competition, criticism, or disengagement, which is a form of workplace-learned helplessness. Santagata knows that true success is a win-win outcome, so when conflicts come up, he avoids triggering a fight-or-flight reaction by asking, “How could we achieve a mutually desirable outcome?”
2. Speak human to human. Underlying every team’s who-did-what confrontation are universal needs such as respect, competence, social status, and autonomy. Recognizing these deeper needs naturally elicits trust and promotes positive language and behaviors. Santagata reminded his team that even in the most contentious negotiations, the other party is just like them and aims to walk away happy. …
3. Anticipate reactions and plan countermoves. “Thinking through in advance how your audience will react to your messaging helps ensure your content will be heard, versus your audience hearing an attack on their identity or ego,” explains Santagata.
Psychological safety is a topic of particular interest to diversity and inclusion professionals, as its benefits are especially important in building and managing diverse teams. In our latest research at CEB, now Gartner, we discuss why creating these spaces and having these conversations can be so hard:
Political polarization has increased significantly in the US in recent years, with these divisions reaching new heights in the lead-up to last November’s election, and they are having an impact on Americans’ ability to concentrate on their jobs. Things haven’t gotten any easier since President Donald Trump took office in January, with multiple studies this year suggesting that employees remain distracted by political news, while many feel increasingly negative or stressed about politics, with detrimental effects on their work.
Pointing to recent Labor Department data showing that US productivity fell slightly in the first quarter of 2017, Quartz’s Michael J. Coren wonders if that has something to do with the political climate:
For HR departments, it feels like a siege. One consultant described it as having the March Madness basketball tournament on all the time, while another is struggling to manage the news notifications flooding employees’ phones. “People are not just concerned about the future of their jobs,” one technology executive told the Washington Post. “They’re concerned about the future of their country. It’s a very difficult environment under which you’re expected to produce creative and innovative ideas. It is a constant, constant topic.”
A new study suggests there is a disconcerting side effect of racial discrimination in the workplace. Writing about their findings at the LSE Business Review, Belle Rose Ragins, Kyle Ehrhardt, Karen S. Lyness, Dianne Murphy and John Capman assert that “like second-hand smoke, the negative effects of racial discrimination at work can affect third-party bystanders”:
Ambient racial discrimination is a workplace stressor. Our surveys of employees from a variety of organizations and occupations revealed its potent repercussions for employees of all races. Those exposed to racial discrimination in their workplace were more likely to report physical symptoms of stress at work, such as upset stomach, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and hand tremors. They were also more likely to experience insomnia and had more stress-related absenteeism than those not exposed to ambient discrimination. Ambient discrimination also affected employees’ organizational commitment; those who were exposed to racial discrimination at work reported less commitment than those not exposed. These findings illuminate the pernicious and potentially widespread effects of racism at work.
So what can organisations and managers do? Organisations clearly need to develop inclusive climates and eliminate workplace racism, but entrenched attitudes make this a challenge. Racism often emerges in subtle and sometimes even unintentional ways through jokes, comments or by forwarding “humorous” emails. Organisations can attempt to regulate behaviours, but employees may engage in racist behaviours without being fully aware of their racism or the repercussions of their words and actions.
Another suggestion the authors make is that “high-quality mentoring relationships” can help mitigate the effects of secondhand racism:
November’s presidential election was perhaps the most heated political contest the US has seen in years, and political conversations and arguments have been creeping into the workplace at an extraordinary rate since last year’s campaign season. Employers who thought perhaps their employees would stop talking politics and get back to work after the election and the inauguration had passed may have another think coming, as Jena McGregor notes at the Washington Post. She highlights a new survey from BetterWorks that “found employees reporting plenty of social media distractions, political discussions that have escalated into arguments, and even hours spent reading posts about politics while they’re at work”:
The recent online survey of of 500 full-time employed Americans finds that workers report spending an average of two hours per day reading political social media posts. They reported reading an average of 14 political social media posts during the workday, with 21 percent of respondents saying they read 20 or more a day. And 20 percent of the full-time employees who responded said they’d attended a march or rally since the election. …
The survey also found that nearly 50 percent of those surveyed said they have witnessed a political conversation turn into an argument at work, with 63 percent of millennials saying the same. Thirty percent said their colleagues spend more time talking about politics than they do about work. And almost 30 percent of workers say they’re less productive since the election.
It’s Election Day in the US, and the decisions voters make before the polls close may have major consequences for America and the world—beginning with a likely hit to productivity in American offices today. Mathilde Pribula, a partner at the HR executive search firm Frederickson Pribula Li, knows her employees have been distracted by the campaign and doesn’t care; indeed, she writes at Fast Company, she’s glad they’ve been so engaged with it:
As an immigrant, I’m enthralled by the American electoral system. It’s fascinating and complex, and as President Obama recently conceded, “Democracy is messy.” Being an American means taking your civic duties seriously, even when that gets stressful or all-consuming. And given the historic nature of this election, I actively want my employees to pay attention. In fact, I’d be disappointed if any of them weren’t. As a manager, I’m fully aware of the costs involved, but I pride myself on hiring bright, inquisitive, and passionate employees. How could any American with those qualities not be engaged this election cycle? …
At the Conversation, Irit Alony discusses a study she conducted in which she applied a method commonly used to predict divorce to predict employee turnover instead. As it turns out, she writes, unhappy employees end up quitting their jobs for reasons strikingly similar to why unhappy marriages fall apart:
Participants in this turnover study were first interviewed, and their their attitudes (like job satisfaction, commitment, intentions to quit, engagement, and burnout) were measured. A year later, their attitudes were measured again, and another year after that, the study looked at who left and who stayed. The study found that employees who left their jobs didn’t use the following coping mechanisms: they didn’t balance the good with the bad, they didn’t genuinely accept that bad things are just part of life, they didn’t avoid lengthy discussions of the negatives and they didn’t express hope. …
The predictions of employees who leave organisations in this research are very similar to predictors of divorce. Past research has shown that when there are forms of negativity in a marriage, like disappointment, withdrawal, hostility, or contempt, you know the couple is at a high risk of divorce. Couples who not only accept their struggles but even celebrate them remain happily married, and so do couples who successfully avoid conflict.