“Do Unto Others”: Philadelphia Holds First Ever Day of Kindness

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Yesterday, the City of Philadelphia held its first ever Day of Kindness, the goal of which was to inspire individuals, civic groups and companies to engage in acts of kindness. While spending a day focused on kindness may not seem like a productive use of company time, many employers don’t realize the detrimental effect that overlooking the need for kindness and civility in the workplace has on employee morale, productivity and, ultimately, a company’s bottom line.

Workplace incivility has been depicted time and time again in movies such as Office Space and Horrible Bosses. But for many, it is not simply a Hollywood plot line, but instead it is an unhappy reality of their daily work life. It is easy to identify overt acts of workplace incivility such as a supervisor who belittles, demeans or yells at employees in front of their coworkers. But subtle forms of incivility can be just as damaging to employee morale, including a supervisor who does not say “please” or “thank you”, arrives late and leaves meetings early with no explanation, checks emails and text messages during meetings or takes credit for other people’s work.

While employers take proactive measures to prevent and manage unlawful workplace harassment and discrimination, many employers often fail to recognize the overall negative impact that rudeness and incivility have in the workplace. Employees who experience incivility in the workplace are more likely to decrease their efforts, productivity and time spent at work, and be less committed to the company as a whole. Additionally, workplace incivility can have a detrimental effect on the health of employees and lead to cardiovascular disease, ulcers and other health problems.

So what can employers do to combat and prevent workplace incivility? Here are a few helpful tips to help employers enhance the civility in their organizations.

Follow the “Golden Rule.”

Last month, Pope Francis spoke before Congress and challenged our representatives to follow the Golden Rule to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  The same is true for all people in any workplace, especially managers and supervisors who should lead by example and model good behavior. Unfortunately, many “mean bosses” treat their subordinates badly because that is how they were treated when they rose through the ranks. If managers and supervisors treat employees with the same respect and attention that they expect to receive, then employees will likely feel appreciated and be motivated to work harder.

Ask employees for feedback on their managers and supervisors.

Often times, managers and supervisors do not intend to be rude to their subordinates. However, they do not realize how their behavior affects their subordinates. Confidential and anonymous feedback from employees can help managers and supervisors change their unintentional bad behavior. Conducting exit interviews with departing employees can also help employers identify managerial behaviors that need to be changed.

Do not ignore bad behavior.

Employers should take all employee complaints about workplace incivility seriously, conduct investigations and issue disciplinary warnings to the “mean boss” when warranted. By taking employee complaints seriously, employers send a message to their employees that such uncivil behavior will not be tolerated.

Hire nice people.

A candidate will likely always be on his or her best behavior during a job interview, but also take note of how the candidate interacts with other staff members in the office. If someone is rude to or dismissive of the receptionist or support staff, he or she will likely carry that behavior through with co-workers and subordinates.

Employers who take proactive steps to combat workplace incivility will experience the financial and psychological benefits of a more engaged, productive and satisfied workforce. So follow Philadelphia’s lead and promote kindness in your workplace, it will pay off in the long run.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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