As Christine Pearson and Christine Porath acknowledge, the total cost of incivility can be estimated but not calculated because (a) the total cost consists of much more than out-of-pocket expenditures and (b) it is impossible to know the nature and extent of damage to self-image, morale, latent pathologies (e.g. hostility), and motivation of perpetrators and their victims. Then, of course, there are the collateral costs associated with others (e.g. family members and friends) who also become involved. Let's just say that the cost of uncivil behavior is substantial. That's the bad news. Now the good news. According to Pearson and Porath, much of it is avoidable.
For example, it is possible to reduce (if not eliminate) incivility in the workplace. After leading off with an especially relevant quotation of Albert Einstein ("The world is a dangerous place, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."), Pearson and Porath devote most of Chapter 13 to explaining how to create a civil workplace. Here is an abbreviation of their suggestions, "grounded in hard evidence - interviews and survey results with thousands of targets of incivility, not to mention discussions, focus groups, and interviews of hundreds of executives and managers."
1. Set zero-tolerance expectations. They must be driven by senior management or they won't go anywhere.
2. Look in the mirror. How do you measure up in terms of your attitude and behavior? What example are you setting?
3. Weed out trouble before it enters your organization. Screen potential clients as rigorously as you do job candidates. Review Point #1.
4. Teach civility. Make certain everyone in the organization understands what civility is so that they can help to establish and sustain (and when necessary, defend) a culture of civility.
5. Train employees and managers. For example, explain how to recognize and cope with the inappropriate behavior of "cunning offenders."
6. Put your ear to the ground and listen carefully. One option is 360º feedback. Be alert to consensus of opinion and a pattern of uncivil behavior.
7. "When incivility occurs, hammer it." Incivility is like cancer. Once detected, it must immediately be treated aggressively.
8. "Take complaints seriously." A culture of civility must also be a culture of candor. An open door policy will encourage people to confide.
9. "Don't make excuses about powerful instigators." Offenders' supervisors must be role models for effective implementation of these and other suggestions, especially #1 and #7. To tolerate incivility is to condone it and then over time, to encourage it.
10. Invest in post-departure interviews. In terms of alleged incivility, there is more to be learned from former employees 45-60 days after departure than there is during an exit interview.
With regard to #3, Pearson and Porath acknowledge the difficulty of picking up on incivility during interviews. However, they do offer six recommendations:
* Up front and personal: "Let all candidates know how important mutual respect is in your organization, that you do not tolerate incivility.
* Tell me more: "Ask for specific examples of their past behaviors when you interview candidates. Get them to support their appealing descriptions of civil behavior with past actions that they actually took."
* Unique perspectives: "Talk to people at lower levels who have worked with the candidate (think `kiss up, kick down.')"
* Better now than later: "Use a team approach. If someone on the recruiting team [and there should be several involved in the process] gets bad vibes, pursue it. Time invested could save you a sour hire."
* Trust but verify: "Check references. Check references. Check references."
Note: Here's an opportunity to check out the examples of civil behavior that the candidate cited.
* Drill down: "If you spot a problem [or suspect one], keep searching."
"Approach each candidate with measured cynicism. Tap internal networks that you and your colleagues have worked so hard to build. Use those contacts to get a full profile of the candidate - across levels, across divisions, across functions." These are only two of several clusters of specific suggestions that are inserted throughout the narrative.
Pearson and Porath are hardcore pragmatists who seem almost wholly preoccupied with knowing and then sharing what they have learned about what works, what doesn't, and why. Specifically, how to reduce incivility's measurable costs such as job stress: $300-billion a year incurred by U.S. corporations, much of the result of workplace incivility. They are also idealists in that they remain convinced that a workplace need not be the toxic waste area. Recent Gallup research indicates that only 29% of the U.S. workforce is positively engaged (i.e. loyal, enthusiastic, and productive) whereas 55% is passively disengaged. That is, they are going through the motions, doing only what they must, "mailing it in," coasting, etc. What about the other 16%? They are "actively disengaged" in that they are doing whatever they can to undermine their employer's efforts to succeed. Is it any wonder that, in the United States, 80% of the people surveyed believe that incivility is a problem? Moreover, 96% have experienced it at work, 80% believe they get no respect there, and 75% are dissatisfied with the way uncivil behavior is handled.
The total cost of incivility can only be estimated but its toxic impact and consequent waste are certain. Credit Christine Pearson and Christine Porath with providing in this book a comprehensive, cohesive, and cost-effective plan to respond before additional damage is done. Theirs is a brilliant achievement. Bravo!