Friday, August 21, 2009

Oh, behave!

The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About ItTwo new books examine the importance of accountability and civility in the workplace


As President John F. Kennedy said, "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.'' When good things happen, there's usually no problem identifying the responsible party. But we've all encountered situations where there are few clues at the scene of a crime — or business problem — that would readily indicate responsibility. Funny how some "leaders'' have never made mistakes or are never involved when their subordinates screw up.

Regardless, one doesn't have to be a leader to act responsibly. Good behavior involves accountability and civility. If I may have your permission, with the able assistance of my editors and this newspaper, I'd like to humbly present two new books that consider these important issues.

How Did That Happen? Holding People Accountable for Results the Positive, Principled Way. Roger Connors and Tom Smith. Portfolio. 272 pages.

Connors and Smith are consultants who provide "accountability training'' for individuals and organizations. The notion that such a thing is not only necessary but is apparently a thriving enterprise disturbs me greatly. But after leafing through their book, I'm impressed by the thoughtfulness, intelligence and pragmatism they bring to bear on this sticky matter. It's not a
matter of "blame,'' which is simplistic and can be divisive and unproductive. Instead, they view the issue holistically and systemically, which is a far more productive approach.

The requisite examples and anecdotes are included, which work well, but their assessment tools are worth the price of admission, along with the remedies they suggest. But, as with most problems, recognition of the situation and a willingness to deal with it are the first steps toward a solution.

The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It. Christine Pearson and Christine Porath. Portfolio. 240 pages.

You can rationalize and excuse all you want, but rudeness can hurt business. It's not just bad manners, according to Pearson and Porath, but incivility in general can be damaging -- if not disastrous. Customers, naturally, can be lost, but the deleterious effects of unkind and thoughtless words and deeds can have a major impact on all stakeholders. Life is too short to deal with nasty people but when there are choices, competitors gain an extra edge just by providing a respite from the rudeness.

The authors have ample data to back up their contentions, though almost anyone could intuit the fact that humans tend to void unpleasantness. They cite 12 percent of the workforce who say they've left jobs at which they were treated badly, but given the ability of some people to withstand pain and others' desire to remain employed at all costs, the actual number of those who've endured hostile workplaces might represent a much higher number. But some managers may not believe they have a problem, especially during this time of high and sustained unemployment. Regardless, this is a solid and thoughtful look at the little things that can make a big difference. The two Christines, Pearson and Porath, provide a useful summary at the end of each chapter and suggestions for assessing and addressing a variety of problems.

While every company may not be suffering from incivility, this book could help them avoid any such problems in the future.

published 8/17/09 in The Miami Herald

No comments: