Feeling that you can’t be both challenging and empathetic can lead people to settle for empathy to create harmony. However, in creating this artificial harmony, uncivil behaviours that are deemed unproductive, disrespectful or inappropriate can go unchallenged.
Levels of incivility are growing and there is a hidden cost – research conducted by Christine Porath and Christine Pearson, who surveyed people’s experiences of behaviours such as undermining colleagues, pointing blame at others and favouritism, have documented this growing trend over the last 20 years. These hidden costs include a decreased quality of work, reduced commitment to organisations and even frustrations taken out on customers – highlighting some of the potential impacts of settling for artificial harmony.
How we respond to these behaviours at work can involve weighing up the sense of personal risk we feel in confronting the perpetrator, against the consequence of ‘letting it go’ – avoiding the difficult conversation.
The messages we tell ourselves can disempower us from intervening early, either by justifying their behaviour (‘that’s just the way they are with people’) or by justifying our response to their behaviour (‘I don’t have authority to’) – critically, both can lead behaviours to escalate until the consequences are too high to ignore. Costly HR-managed incidents to mend employee relationships follow.
Working in partnership with our clients we place emotional intelligence at the heart of how we help managers to become confident, resilient leaders. Leaders who are trusted to take greater personal risk to address disruptive, inappropriate behaviour earlier, even when feeling exposed.
Want to find out more about how we do this? We're sponsoring the CIPD Developing Line Managers Conference in London on 27–28 November. If you're coming along, stop by for a chat or visit our website for more information