“How You Show Up and Treat People Means Everything”


There’s a lot of talk about toxic workplaces these days. In many organizations, growing levels of incivility are eroding employee morale, engagement and productivity.

Blatant bullying, passive-aggressiveness and a basic lack of respect for others are among the demoralizing behaviors that negatively impact the mental and physical wellness of employees everywhere.

We’ve done a great job of identifying the problem but have sometimes struggled to find solutions.

In some cases, senior leaders will support and work with HR and People Managers to counsel or remove problem employees. In many others, the problem employees are favored by senior leaders because they are top producers, which means they are not only protected but also rewarded and promoted for their contributions to the bottom line.

You can leave the toxic workplace and find another job at a better company, but that isn’t always an easy or quick solution — nor a permanent escape. Employees at every level who create or allow these problems will always exist, and at some point in your career, you will most likely encounter this type of person or environment. So what can you do?

You can choose to be positive.

You can choose to be kind.

You can choose to treat your co-workers with respect.

You can choose to inspire others.

You can choose civility.

Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and author of “How to Create a Culture of Civility,” says, “Ask yourself this question: ‘Who do you want to be?’ It’s a simple question and, whether you know it or not, you’re answering it every day through your actions. This one question will define your professional success more than any other because how you show up and treat people means everything.”

When you have a few minutes, watch Porath’s TED Talk on civility. It’s well worth the investment of your time. Share it with your senior leaders, your HR team and your employees.

Porath was also my special guest during a #Nextchat on this topic. Read the recap to learn more about what others are doing in their workplaces.

The choice is yours.

Starting today, choose civility.

Written by Mary Kaylor, SHRM-CP, Lead, SHRM Public Affairs