From the Brexit vote to the Italian constitutional referendum, the German economic/immigration challenges and the U.S. election of President Trump, politics—both national and international—are having a strong ripple effect in the form of divisive rhetoric throughout the corporate world. There is a social divide between various political groups that now more strongly than any time in recent memory is carrying over as interpersonal conflict in the workplace.
Americans today not only are deeply divided, but are showing less patience and respect for each other’s opinions. Fueled by the barrage of news and social media, this division is spilling into the workplace, and isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. CEOs around the world need to recognize that this is a phenomenon that must be addressed.
Dull the edge of the sword with employee engagement
Research and practical experience show that employee engagement is critical for contribution of thought and intellectual power in our knowledge-based economy. Studies show that a lack of respect in the workplace produces 45% fewer ideas during brainstorming, while employees who feel their leader “demonstrates respect” are significantly more focused and engaged. A collaborative culture is a fundamental imperative for success and showing each other respect has never been more important.
A recent research study published in Harvard Business Review on lack of respect in the workplace found that:
- 48% intentionally decreased their effort at work
- 47% intentionally decreased the amount of time spent at work
- 80% lost time worried about negative incidents
- 63% lost time avoiding the offender
- 66% said performance declined
- 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers
The CEO sets the tone
Ultimately, the CEO is responsible for corporate culture and ensuring that it is consistent with the values of the company and its business mission. The CEO needs to be the chief spokesperson for respectful interactions to ensure the internal harmony necessary for success; and where necessary, reinforce it with communication training and skill building.
To set the tone, a CEO might be best advised not to take the issue of civility head-on, but rather take the tact of reinforcing the business value and (directly links it to the bottom-line of the organization) of a civil, collaborative environment. Here are 6 tips that can help.
1. Define the business case for respectful interaction, using productivity data.
2. Support the business case by overtly identifying how respectful interaction can enhance bottom-line productivity.
3. Model the behavior you want to see. For example, develop and issue written statements, videos or live presentations that incorporate themes of cultural understanding and recognition that people have different styles into the day to day organizational lexicon.
4. Make civility and respectful collaboration a part of your performance appraisal process.
5. Create a standard for emails, text messages and social media.
6. See that the company creates training programs to educate the workforce.
No one can get away from global headlines that have the potential to continually divide the workforce at a time and place where cohesion is imperative. But it’s a smart CEO who creates policies and practices that help people find ways to rise above the potential conflict and use the cultural values of the workplace to overcome divisive dialogue.