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Book:  Trust Your Canary
Author:  Sharone Bar-David
Purchase:  PrinteBook

Three Big Takeaways:

1. "That's just who I am" is an unacceptable excuse when it comes to workplace incivility. Efforts to provide this person with feedback on their behavior are not internalized. Meanwhile, this person's personality is perceived by others as rude, discourteous, disrespectful, and disrupts the workplace environment. (pg. 14)

2. Your canary's job is to alert you when the invisible line that separates civility and incivility has been crossed. Your canary has hundreds - even thousands - of years to develop its acute sensitivity. Trust your canary. It's one of the most critical and reliable tools that you will ever possess. It helps you identify when you must take action to restore respect and civility. (pg. 144)

3. The single biggest cause for the uncivil behavior of so-called "problem employees" is that management has for years allowed the behavior to endure without any meaningful consequences. Had management taken action when the bad behavior first showed up, these employees would now be wonderfully civil contributors ... or working for another employer. (pg. 224)

Other Key Ideas:​

When people are asked to define incivility, not saying hello or greeting others is the first thing people identify. There's something about skipping this basic nicety that really gets under people's skin and causes them to be resentful and retaliatory. (pg. 8)

Using mobile devices in the middle of a conversation, emailing in meetings while someone else is presenting or speaking, and continuing to work away on one's computer while in conversation are another example of workplace incivility. (pg. 11)

Silent treatment - not speaking to someone over a long period of time - is another example of workplace incivility. Giving someone the silent treatment is a time-honored tradition speaks volumes about shunning the other person without saying a word. (pg. 11)

Because it is an invisible phenomenon, there are typically no policies in place to prevent or address workplace incivility. Some organizations have a code of conduct, but there is only so much you can capture in a policy. (pg. 18)

Workplace incivility is bad for business. It has measurable, negative effects on individual performance, team performance, customer service, talent retention, and employee engagement. While you are busy telling yourself that an abrasive personality cannot be changed, incivility is continuously eroding the fabric of your team and the objectives it is supposed to accomplish. (pg. 33)

At the heart of any employment contract lies the following: Employees will contribute their time, talent, and effort to the employer. In return, employees will receive a salary, benefits, and safe conditions that will allow them to carry out their job duties to their full potential. When incivility reigns, people cannot perform at their best, meaning you as the employer have failed in keeping your end of the contract. (pg. 34)

When you fail to address bad behavior on your team, it affects people's perception of you as a leader. You will be viewed as a weak leader who lacks the insight, wisdom, and guts to do what's right. The longer you allow things to fest, the more damage you are doing to your ability to be an effective manager who people want to follow. After all, how can you be an inspiring and trustworthy leader when everyone can see in plain view that you are afraid to do whatever is necessary to create a healthy work environment for all? (pg. 34)

Among workers who have been on the receiving end of incivility, here's how motivation was affected: 48% intentionally decreased their work effort; 47% intentionally decreased time spent at work; 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work. Here's how ability was affected: 80% lost time worrying; 63% lost time avoiding the offender; 66% said their performance declined. (pg. 38)

People who are upset, distracted, or worried because of incivility cannot perform at their best. The worry and anxiety are not only disruptive and demotivating, they also make them more prone to illness and more likely to make mistakes. Over time, if exposure to incivility is repeated and frequent, a person is disposed to develop anxiety disorders or even depression. (pg. 40)

When senior leadership is uncivil, incivility will fester throughout the organization. Incivility in the senior ranks sets the tone for what is expected and acceptable across the board. Why would anyone believe that the organization is committed to civility when a senior person is blatantly allowed to be uncivil, with no apparent ramifications? (pg. 73)

Sometimes, senior management is generally civil; however, there is one person on the team who is perceived to be downright abrasive. In these cases, the incivility is tolerated because the value of this person's talents is perceived to outweigh any drawbacks related to their problematic interpersonal style. Therefore, those who have the power to hold this person accountable do little to change the situation. (pg. 74)

I wish I were able to offer decisive solutions for fixing the problem of incivility in the top ranks. Unfortunately, this challenge is extremely difficult to tackle unless you are in a senior leadership position. Often, real change happens only when a new person takes the helm as head of the organization. (pg. 75)

Leaders modeling incivility is one of the biggest contributors to the creation and maintenance of workplace incivility. When the manager is uncivil, a strong message is sent: Here's how we do business around here. Furthermore, they have no moral authority in correcting other people's behavior. Any attempt to do so creates cynicism and resistance. (pg. 75)

I often get asked, "But what about behaviors that seem like they are uncivil, but really are culturally based habits?" Underlying this question is the notion that uncivil practices that are anchored in a person's culture are legitimate, and that a manager should not tackle them, in case they step into a human rights minefield. Actually, every single culture has teachings that follow the Golden Rule: treat others like you wish to be treated. Therefore, ascribing rudeness to cultural practices reflects flawed thinking. In these instances, the leader should help educate the person to the local or organizational culture so they can conduct themselves in a manner that is congruent with the organizational norms. It is legitimate to require the person to adapt their behavior to the workplace expectations related to civil conduct. Conversely, when a leader justifies uncivil behavior by attributing it to cultural diversity, he or she is condoning and perpetuating a culture of incivility. (pg. 78)

It is true that you cannot change someone's personality. However, as a leader you have the right and the responsibility to demand that during working hours everyone behave in a professional manner. It is reasonable to ask that people check the unpleasant aspects of their personality at the door when entering the workplace. People with abrasive personalities can set them free in their private lives; but in the workplace, this behavior is unacceptable. (pg. 89)

When workplace incivility is addressed, this will be beneficial to your productivity. You will spend your time meeting your objectives rather than dealing with complaints. You'll be able to focus on the big, important, strategic things rather than on fighting fires and managing HR issues that are holding the whole team and organization back. (pg. 96)

You must deal with abrasive leaders. When a leader behaves habitually in uncivil ways and causes distress to the surrounding work environment, deal with that matter early and decisively. Do not succumb to organizational denial, anxiety about dealing with this person, or fear they will depart and leave an irreplaceable void. Instead, offer the person support to change. But if things don't change, let the person do so; the short-term costs might seem high, but the gains are immeasurable. (pg. 109)

A leader who is chronically uncivil creates deep distress in the environment, triggering fear, sick leaves, and departure of good people. Abrasive managers are often referred to as bullies. The only reason that any manager is free to behave in an abrasive fashion is because they are enabled. When someone in the organization sets clear boundaries and holds this person accountable, things never reach this point. (pg. 123)

The only reason that chronically uncivil employees can keep their job while also behaving miserably is because they are allowed to do so. (pg. 225)

People want to work in a respectful environment where they can perform at their best and that is your responsibility to remove obstacles that might prevent them from doing so. (pg. 279)

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