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The Costly Mistake You May Be Making as a Boss

Christine PorathWhen you’re busy and under pressure, you might speak tersely, forget to smile and skip other niceties when interacting with your team. You think it’s obvious that you’re just trying to get things done, but your direct reports probably feel differently.

“Most rude bosses don’t know how they’re coming across because they don’t intend to treat their employees poorly,” says Christine Porath, a professor of management at Georgetown University and author of Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace. “They think they’re being efficient or they are behaving the way their role models behaved—or they may simply lack self-awareness.”

The Hidden Costs of Office Slights

But rudeness in the workplace is counter-productive. “People who don’t feel valued or respected are likely to leave and turnover is expensive to an organization,” says Porath, who surveyed approximately 40,000 workers.

If unhappy employees stay on or remain at least until they find a new job, your company pays, too. “Feeling mistreated or seeing others being mistreated takes people’s minds off work,” Porath explains. “It affects their cognitive ability, lowers motivation to perform their best and can affect their health, leading to more sick days and higher health insurance costs.”

The Big Mistake You Can Easily Fix

Yet stopping the hurt (felt by employees and your organization) often takes only minor tweaking to your behavior. (To assess how rude you are, take Porath’s quiz.)

In fact, you can stop committing the top act of incivility according to Porath’s research by simply keeping your smartphone in your pocket during meetings. “When you’re on your cell, you are sending the message that the person or group facing you is not important enough to have your full attention,” Porath says. “If you must email or text or are waiting for a call, then reschedule the meeting to when you can prioritize the people in front of you.”

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