Being nice makes good commercial sense

April 29, 2020

In the current climate of ever increasing awareness about our mental health and twitter campaigns such as #bekind, my fundamental belief that employee wellbeing (physical, financial and mental) is directly linked to performance and productivity, has risked being devalued by social popularity, media campaigns and even the backlash from those who think being nice is some kind of failing of the ‘snowflake generation’.

My belief in the fact that looking after the wellbeing of your team (and encouraging them to look after themselves) removes barriers to performance and productivity is unwavering.  But what about being nice.  Surely this was the domain of those ‘pink and fluffy’ HR types, not the hard-nosed commercial titans that drive business and deliver success.

Well watching a recent TedX Talk on YouTube has smashed any doubts out of the park!  TedX Exeter in 2019 was delivered by Chris Turner, a consultant in emergency medicine at University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire. He founded and runs Civility Saves Lives, a campaign that aims to raise awareness of the power of civility in healthcare.

The impact of Chris’ work in healthcare is way beyond that which most of us will experience – in his line of work, it literally does save lives, but the lessons are there for us all to learn and the benefits we can reap from improved productivity and performance are vast.  So what is this all about?

It all starts off with people and process.  If people follow the process and do what they’re supposed to do, then everything will be ok!  Right?  Well the reality is, it won’t!  Process is written on paper (or Visio if you’re more technically competent).  Practice happens between people and in working environments.  Both are critically important, but people trump process every time.

A test was conducted in a healthcare setting between two identically skilled and capable teams; the only difference being that one of the teams was exposed to mild rudeness.  The outcome of all the research and analysis was this.  One single factor was responsible for between 40 – 60% of the variance in outcomes – and that factor was rudeness.

How we treat each other at work is the single most important factor when it comes to performance.  Think about the last time someone was rude to you (and not screaming in your face rude, just impolite).  It can make you feel belittled, ashamed, humiliated and powerless – it sits with you, occupies your mind and affects your mood, until eventually the anger comes roaring through.  “How dare they speak to me like that” and thinking of all those things you should have said and done in response.

The bandwidth of an average person allows us to deal with 5-7 things at a time.  When someone is rude to us, our bandwidth reduces on average by 61%.  Translate that into your workplace and think about the impact on the performance and productivity of your business.  Then consider the impact on other members of the team who observed the rude behaviour.  Their performance will decrease by 20% and their willingness to help others will decrease by 50%.  The impact of rudeness is contagious.

Help individuals and teams to perform at their peak.  It may not be a matter of life and death, but civility can be the difference between ok and great.

The next time you’re in a bad mood, tempted to use to position to put someone else down or want to be seen as ‘the big powerful boss’, stop and think again.  Being nice isn’t just a nice thing to do.  It will affect the commercial success of your business.

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