"Being nice" is important to the workplace

Bosses are leaders. They set the tone in a workplace. As the boss (CEO), you get a chance to set a tone for a culture that fosters being nice to each other or being incivil "to get things done."

I've long held the belief that it is incredibly important to be nice to your fellow colleagues, and even more important to be nice to your reports.

Today's NYTimes article further lends credence to this belief.

In fact, it talks with some clear numbers that a workplace where you don't treat each other nicely is downright unproductive.

In one study, the experimenter belittled the peer group of the participants, who then performed 33 percent worse on anagram word puzzles and came up with 39 percent fewer creative ideas during a brainstorming task focused on how they might use a brick. In our second study, a stranger — a “busy professor” encountered en route to the experiment — was rude to participants by admonishing them for bothering her. Their performance was 61 percent worse on word puzzles, and they produced 58 percent fewer ideas in the brick task than those who had not been treated rudely. We found the same pattern for those who merely witnessed incivility: They performed 22 percent worse on word puzzles and produced 28 percent fewer ideas in the brainstorming task.
— http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/opinion/sunday/is-your-boss-mean.html

One you build a culture where people genuinely trust each other to do the right thing could lead to building further camaraderie where chiding can be considered as the height of trust.

However, until then, belittling actually makes people unproductive. And being hostile - shouting, picking people's mistakes while not providing encouragement only leads to exemplify and imbibe a culture that the company shuns mistakes.

We all know from having worked in places where that happens it is the fastest way for people to "do their job" and nothing else. People stop taking risks in that environment and that is the biggest loss of productivity and future growth for the company.

Incivility shuts people down in other ways, too. Employees contribute less and lose their conviction, whether because of a boss saying, “If I wanted to know what you thought, I’d ask you,” or screaming at an employee who overlooks a typo in an internal memo.
— http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/opinion/sunday/is-your-boss-mean.html

If you're a service company, where you have any dealings with customers at all, showing them even a sense of the incivility within the workplace is a sure shot way to lose customers.

Customers behave the same way. In studies I did with the marketing professors Deborah MacInnis and Valerie S. Folkes at the University of Southern California, we found that people were less likely to patronize a business that has an employee who is perceived as rude — whether the rudeness is directed at them or at other employees. Witnessing a short negative interaction leads customers to generalize about other employees, the organization and even the brand.
— http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/opinion/sunday/is-your-boss-mean.html

As a boss, it is also incredibly important that you should be open to feedback from your employees. Here's a quote that highlights the problem for me.

Incivility often grows out of ignorance, not malice. A surgeon told me that until he received some harsh feedback, he was clueless that so many people thought he was a jerk. He was simply treating residents the way he had been trained.
— http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/opinion/sunday/is-your-boss-mean.html

It is incredibly easy to get into a the vicious cycle of ignorance and incivility here.

Consider ths -- the first time you get feedback that you're shouting or hurting others with your ability to pick out mistakes and hanging people out to dry -- if your reaction was to say sorry vs. vigorously defend yourself.

This brings less feedback and makes your company culture weary of ever getting honest feedback to improve. It shall be a culture of fear to go against the boss, leading to further ignorance and incivility.

Finally, it is not too late. Culture takes time to change, but you should start working on it now. The article points out some simple and effective tips too --

Leaders can use simple rules to win the hearts and minds of their people — with huge returns. Making small adjustments such as listening, smiling, sharing and thanking others more often can have a huge impact. In one unpublished experiment I conducted, a smile and simple thanks (as compared with not doing this) resulted in people being viewed as 27 percent warmer, 13 percent more competent and 22 percent more civil.
— http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/opinion/sunday/is-your-boss-mean.html

As a boss, at the end of the day, you're responsible for the culture of the company. Leading through fear and flexing your muscle is ephemeral. Nobody wanted to be a cold, ruthless leader. They often lack feedback.

As employees to such bosses, if you do care about the culture of your company (and you should), try different ways of sharing the feedback to your boss. It is your chance to show your leadership too.

Good luck and let's create great, civil, happy workplaces. :)