Honour Civility

As mentioned in both our books The Leader,  The Teacher & You and Winning With Honour, you could be a CEO of a multinational corporation, a stay-at-home mother, an emergency room nurse, a primary school student, or the leader of a country.

Regardless of your station in life, your life counts and you can choose to be a leader and make a positive impact in your own spheres of influence, no matter how small these spheres might be.

And as you lead, may you keep in mind the importance of honouring civility and honouring your followers.

In this Wall Street Journal article, Dr Christine Porath, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the author of “Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace” (Grand Central Publishing), shares that “Civility at Work Helps Everyone Get Ahead.”

Porath states: “In every interaction, you have a choice. Do you want to lift people up or hold them down? Whether you know it or not, you’re answering this question every day through your actions.”

In her studies on the study the costs of incivility (defined as “any rude, disrespectful or insensitive behavior that people feel runs counter to the norms”), Dr Porath found that: “The way you treat people means everything — whether they will build relationships with you, trust you, follow you, support you and work hard for you.

“You can lift people up by demonstrating respect and making people feel valued, appreciated and heard. But when you exhibit uncivil behaviors, from ignoring to belittling to intentionally undermining others, the harm is enormous.”

Dr Porath’s studies have shown that when employees do not feel respected, their performance suffers, and their thinking skills and helpfulness are affected in subtle ways.

In a research study that Dr Porath and Amir Erez (from the University of Florida) published in the Academy of Management Journal in 2007, they found that groups that were belittled “performed 33% worse on anagram word puzzles and came up with 39% fewer creative ideas during a brainstorming task.” A second experiment revealed that rudely admonished participants “performed 61% worse on word puzzles, and produced 58% fewer ideas” than participants who were not treated rudely.

Subsequent experiments undertaken by Dr Porath revealed that those who “merely witnessed incivility” performed “25% worse on word puzzles and produced nearly 45% fewer ideas in the brainstorming tasks than those who had not witnessed the rude behavior. They were also far less likely stay to help the experimenter with an additional task.”

In the same Wall Street Journal article, Dr Porath cited another study she had undertaken that was published in the Harvard Business Review – in a survey of more than 20,000 employees across industries, Dr Porath found that “those who felt their leader ‘demonstrated respect’ reported 92% greater focus and prioritisation, 56% better health and well-being, and 55% more engagement.”

Dr Porath also shared that civility enhances a team’s performance by increasing psychological safety by creating an “environment is a trusting, respectful place to take risks”. Dr Porath cited that a study by Google found that “teams with more psychological safety were more likely to make use of their teammates’ ideas and less likely to leave Google”. The Google study also found that teams with more psychological safety “generated more revenue for the company and were rated ‘effective’ twice as often by executives.”

Dr Porath concluded in the Wall Street Journal article that civility pays for leaders and business: “By being civil, leaders create a positive cycle in their organization, allowing everyone to focus more on their work.”

While Porath’s studies are focused on the workplace, the lessons are equally applicable to all our interactions across our private, personal, professional, and public spheres.

So whether you are a leader at home, at work and/or in your community, may you remember to honour civility in all your interactions. As shared in this previous blog, you might perhaps find it helpful to THINK before any interaction by asking yourself:

“Is what I am about to say, post or share:

  • True?
  • Helpful?
  • Inspiring?
  • Necessary?
  • Kind?”


And shared on page 419 of “Winning with Honour”, Maya Angelou (an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist) famously said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

May you choose to “lift up” everyone that crosses your path be it in your homes, your communities, your organisations, and any other public spaces, so that they can be the best that they can be.

Maya Angelou  l  People remember how you made them feel.jpg


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