Mastering Civility

I heard Bill Hybels talk recently about the importance of ‘basic civility’ for leading healthy staff cultures. Many of us are familiar with the adage, ‘people join organisations, they leave managers.’ So this is an area that may require a little more intentional investment. Hybels’ recommended a book by Christine Porath called Mastering Civility. Having bought the book, and read it, I have to say I really liked it. Much of it was common sense, but as the saying goes, ‘common sense isn’t all that common.’

In the book Porath covers the high costs of incivility, how to assess your own culture, how to develop the culture, as well as lots of practical tips on practising basic civility. Here’s just three research-based insights from her book.

  • Of those on the receiving end of incivility 66% felt their performance declined, 78% felt their commitment to the organisation declined, and 25% admitted to taking frustration out on others.
  • People pick up on warmth faster than competence. Judgments as to someone’s warmth toward us are processed in 33 milliseconds.
  • The greatest driver of worker engagement is the extent to which workers felt their managers were genuinely interested in their well-being.

There’s a ton more of this kind of stuff in the book illustrating the effect that civility (or lack of) has on others. If you want to chase a bit more there’s an 8 minute YouTube clip of Christine Porath talking about some of the material in her book here:

Personally, I’d highly recommend any senior leader picks up this book and spends some time working through it with their staff team. You may be thinking, ‘I’m too busy, can I really afford the time and effort to read and talk about this ‘soft’ stuff?’ I think a better question to reflect on would be, ‘can you afford not to?’


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