What does bad office behavior look like? There’s the guy who doesn’t say “thank you,” and the woman who won’t even say “hi.” Others bark commands, fail to make eye contact, and occasionally tell belittling jokes. The uncivil — dare we say hostile? — workplace that these habits create can do a pretty rough number on your team.
How rough? Rachel Feintzeig of the Wall Street Journal reports that 96 percent of employees have been treated rudely at the office and 50 percent say it happens at least once a week, according to a continuing study by Georgetown University and the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Those numbers alone should raise management’s eyebrows. But if they don’t, consider this: 26 percent of employees say they have quit a job because of “a lack of civility.”
Beyond losing talent, that kind of turnover generates additional costs for businesses. Cisco Systems estimates that incivility costs the company more than $8.3 million a year. “That figure takes into account turnover, employees’ weakened commitment to the company, and work time that was lost to worrying about future bad behavior,” Feintzeig (@RachelFeintzeig) writes.
Thankfully, Feintzeig doesn’t just deliver bad news. She also offers two possible ways to improve bad manners in the workplace, holding up Ochsner Health System as an example. For starters, Ochsner instituted what it calls a 10/5 rule: Employees are expected to make eye contact with anybody who comes within 10 feet of them, and greet anybody who’s standing within five. Secondly, Ochsner also has a no-venting policy. Frustrated employees must go to designated “safe zones” to vent when frustrated, such as a private office, Feintzeig reports. Adherence to this policy factors into employee evaluations.
Requiring your employees to “be nice” may seem a little like babysitting or playing Big Brother. In an ideal world, you’re hiring people who don’t need to be reminded how to be polite. But given how ubiquitous rudeness appears to have become — and the devastating effects it can have on your talent pool — these kinds of policies may be a smart move.
Managers: Don’t think for a second that you’re exempt from workplace etiquette. A survey of 800 people by a U.K. cigarette company shows that employees tend to blame you above other colleagues for their on-the-job stress, Under30CEO.com reports. However, it’s worth noting that machines cause even more grief. Nearly one in three professionals attributes office frustrations to technical difficulties.