The workplace continues to evolve as hybrid models enable working from home while maintaining optimal productivity. Yet there is definitely a cost to remote communication and collaboration—no matter how effective are the tools we can use.
This cost to communication and collaboration may be due to an overall lower level of trust or respect. It could also be because there is now an alarming lack of civility throughout our lives.
Look no further than our representatives in congress to see how dysfunctional our so-called leaders have become. Cable news programs are less about conveying news and information so viewers can draw their own conclusions than partisan battles that are all about dramatic one-upmanship to keep viewers tuned in. Social media is rampant with vitriol that clearly fails to deliver Mark Zuckerberg’s mission to “give people the capacity to form communities and bring the globe closer together.”
We are actually moving further apart because we are talking over each other, failing to fully listen, seeking only confirming data that supports our perspective, and generally choosing to stay within the confines of our own tribes.
Civility is the deliberate practice of treating others with courtesy and politeness, yet many people are choosing not to do so. A Harvard Business Review study found that 98% of employees have experienced incivility at work. Half of the participants reported that they were treaded badly at least once a week.
This lack of civility can show up in the workplace in various forms:
- Passive-aggressive communication
- Failing to assume positive intent with email messages
- Not giving others the benefit of the doubt
- Keeping the camera off in a Teams meeting
- Miserable performance feedback meetings
These things can all contribute to a lack of engagement, poor performance, lower productivity, and greater turnover.
Our behavior in the workplace may be a reflection in how we behave in our personal lives, and I suggest this needs to change. Showing general kindness and compassion to others—regardless of whether we know them—can make both you and others feel better.
When I reflect on random acts of kindness and compassion in my own life, there were so many times where I received a helping hand, generosity, and comfort. But two acts I performed continue to stick with me as I felt so much joy in initiating these actions:
- Many years ago, while visiting a sick loved one in the hospital, I was unable to leave the parking garage as the woman in front of me didn’t have cash to pay for her parking. I gave her $5 and, although she asked for my address with the promise of paying me back, I held no assurances. I simply felt good about my ability to help someone, who very likely was also visiting a sick loved one. A thoughtful card with the money arrived a few days later.
- While walking across a bridge near my home, I witnessed a young woman lift a leg across the railing with the intent to jump off. I quickly crossed the street, put my hand on her shoulder and engaged her in a conversation to prevent her from jumping. Several other people assisted in helping this troubled woman, and before long the police arrived who I’d like to believe provided greater assistance. It was a powerful moment that lifted my spirits on how I as well as several other strangers all engaged to be helpful.
In the workplace, communication and collaboration can improve via greater kindness and compassion by practicing giving others the benefit of the doubt, assuming positive intent, listening with our full attention, and delivering critical feedback while demonstrating care.
Make it a point to behave with kindness and compassion throughout your life. Practice and encourage more of this in your workplace. Both you and others will feel better and you will help make your workplace and our world a more civil and peaceful place.