By Szabina Tóth

Dear university students of ELTE 🙂

I would like to introduce you to some quite interesting thoughts and practical tips. They can be used in most situations either during your university years or after, in ‘real’ life settings such as your future workplace, everyday – or private life. These tips are derived from the TED Talk given by Christine Porath on the topic of ‘Why being respectful to your coworkers is good for business?’. If you are interested in the whole speech you can find the link below.

I am going summarize Christine’s ideas in my brief text and hopefully it can inspire you for further reflection.

So, ‘Why being respectful to your coworkers is good for business?’ Apparently, your future professional success mainly will depend on how you treat people, your fellow colleagues, your subordinates or your superiors. It is easy to see that you have basically two options; you either lift them up or hold them down. If you make them feel valued, appreciated and heard you do a pretty good job. On the other hand, if you make people feel small, insulted, disregarded or excluded there is something in you that you would need to work on for everyone’s interest, especially yours. You can decide whether you want to behave in a so called ‘civil’ or ‘incivil’ way. Behaving in a civil way means doing the small things, like smiling, listening fully when someone is speaking to you, respect and acknowledge others and so on.

On the other hand, behaving in an incivil way does not only include disrespect, rudeness or insult but also mocking, belittling or teasing someone. Be alert, small incivil actions may lead to bigger problems like aggression and violence. As a consequence, performance greatly suffers since motivation significantly lowers in an incivil atmosphere. What is striking is that, the performance gets weakened not only for those who are treated not appropriately but also of those who witness it.

How we treat each other affects our emotions, our motivation, our performance, our attention, our brainpower just to name a few. Imagine a hospital where lives depend on the state of the doctors and nurses. In an incivil environment we cannot give our best which may have a huge cost.

What is behind an incivil behaviour? Why do some people act like that? Mainly, because of stress and being overloaded. Although some people tend to behave in a not civil way, because they are concerned about that they may not appear leader-like if they are kind. They tend to think that they can get ahead if they dominate the situation, if they insensitively rule their and others’ word. But actually, it is not always the case. Employees won’t have incivil executives’ backs when they are in a place of weakness. Would you?

On the other hand, being a civil executive is definitely worth it. A civil leader can have a strong opinion or conflict, he or she can even give a negative feedback but what makes a huge difference is that a civil leader does it with respect. If you can challenge others and yet at the same time care personally about them, you would be twice as likely viewed as a leader and your subordinates would perform significantly better. What turned out from a leadership study is that, people value being treated with respect over anything else. Those, who felt respected are healthier, more focused, more loyal to the organization and a lot more engaged. So, is treating others with respect worth it? Of course it is!

How can we achieve that people feel respected? Well, small things can make a great difference. For example thanking people, sharing credit, listening attentively, humbly asking questions, acknowledging others and smiling have an impact. Persistently doing such things will encourage others to act similarly and gradually the organization’s performance is going to rise. A civil leader can turn things around and save the company from collapse. Expecting high performance with respect can strengthen employee engagement. The key is to be tough-minded on standards and tenderhearted with people.

Civility lifts people. Therefore they can give more and function better. On the other hand, incivility takes away from the potential of people and worsens their performance. Even if someone ‘only’ witnesses incivility. You do not even need to be the target of incivility and yet you can sense the negative impact of it. Being productive, creative, helpful, happy and healthy can happen only in a civil environment.

We can be more mindful with our actions in every situation. We choose who we want to be: the one who lifts others up or the one who holds people down.


TED Talk

Why being respectful to your coworkers is good for business?