Leaders Can Be Nice!

Leaders Can Be Nice!

I was recently reading a book by Robert M. Sapolsky, a Stanford professor and the author of “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” and found that when people experience incivility for too long or too often, their immune systems suffer. Further, research is clear that incivility and workplace bullying causes damage to our health, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and ulcers. And, hormones called glucocorticoids are elevated during unpleasant interactions (and even when we replay those interactions later in our head) and this leads to increased appetite and obesity.

Another well known researcher in the “field” of incivility has asked hundreds of people via her research studies why employees behave with incivility, and the answer was most often that they felt overloaded and therefore have no time to be nice, decent or respectful.

It’s so interesting that people believe being nice takes time. Being nice doesn’t have to cost extra effort, it’s about changing the way you communicate in interactions that you will have anyway. You may as well make those interactions pleasant because if you don’t productivity and the desire to serve the individuals you are responsible for goes down.

According to experts, most people tie disruptive behavior, such as gossip, abusive, condescending or insulting personal conduct, to errors and poor quality. In the mental health field, 27% of research respondents tied incivility to the decomposition of a patient. That’s some error.

Interestingly, there’s a perceived inverse relationship between warmth, compassion and competence. If a person acts competent, he can’t be warm and nice. If he’s warm and nice, he can’t be competent, what an unusual perspective.

So guess what? You can be both competent and nice. Competent leaders, managers and employees can certainly smile, say thank you, and demonstrate caring listening skills. Put your cell phone down when someone’s talking to you, and make eye contact with others when you pass them in the hallway.

None of this takes extra time, so why not give it a try.