Is Civility The Management Tool That We All Need?

All managers need to learn how to practice civility
All managers need to learn how to practice civility
Image Credit: Village Square

As a manager, we are always looking for ways to become better at our job. We attend training courses, we read books, we watch videos. Some of us even have a chance to tag along with managers who we feel do a good job in order to find out how they do things. Our goal is to find ways to motivate the people on our team. We have a lot of options: fear, civility, etc. The big question that every manager is facing is what approach works the best?

Is It Better To Be Feared?

So what’s the best way to manage a group of people? Some managers go by the thinking that yelling at people, and perhaps even occasionally throwing a chair or two is a good way to get people’s attention. Keeping them on their toes is what these types of managers want to be able to do. There is a very good chance that this type of manager subscribes to the Machiavelli school of thought in which it has been famously noted that “It is better to be feared than to be loved, if one cannot be both.” This type of manager has given up on being loved by the people who work for him and instead has opted to go for fear.

There is always the possibility that this type of manager has been doing their reading. What they have discovered is that there is some research that shows warm people are often perceived to be less competent. The research has also shown that people who treat others rudely tend to accumulate greater power. This type of managers realizes that being considerate or kind can lead to being perceived as weak and they don’t want to be thought of that way.

But hang on a moment. It turns out that there is even more research on this topic out there. A great deal of research shows that fear negatively impacts team member participation and innovation. The research showed that certain verbal behaviors by managers — such as a raised voice or insulting, abrasive, or threatening remarks — are clear signs of displeasure. These behaviors therefore, trigger fear in team members. These types of aggressive displays may trigger high intensity fear and automatic, non-deliberative defensive silence from the people who are being managed.

Is There A Better Way?

Just to make sure that managers understand what is going on here, there may be additional dominance cues, often more subtle ones that may also trigger silence in the presence of those authorities. None of this requires any research to intuitively understand. Managers need to understand that if they yell at someone, they’ll shut down. If they criticize them, they’ll stop making suggestions. If they dismiss their ideas out of hand, they’ll stop pushing back. They’ll go along to get along. Oh, by the way – the pressure soon gets old. No matter how forcefully presented, these types of messages soon grow stale. Managers who manage through heavy-handed authority quickly “lose” their teams.

What managers need to understand is what the people on their team are thinking. “I’ll do what you tell me to do,” team members start to think, “but that’s about it.” The key message for a manager is that as soon as they can, they’ll do it for — or with — someone else. It turns out that one of the most underrated skills in business right now is being nice. The best managers are demanding. They have high expectations. They occasionally dish out a little tough love.

However — and this is key point for managers to understand — they also show their team members, through their words and actions, that they care about them. That they truly believe in them. That while they may have high expectations, they know their team members are capable of reaching that level of performance. In short, they are asking for a lot — but at the same time they ask with courtesy and respect. Most managers think the same thing when they hear about this. That all sounds good, but that’s not how it works in my part of the real world.

Actually, it turns out that it is how it works. Research shows that civility — treating people with respect — can lead to some startling results. In one experiment that was performed, the researchers found that people were 59 percent more willing to share information, 72 percent more likely to seek advice, and 57 percent more likely to seek information from a person who treated them civilly compared to an person who treated them uncivilly. Additionally there’s this: a civil person inspired people to work 71 percent harder, and be more than 70 percent more likely to want to do well for that person. It turns out that it may be better to be feared than loved. However, it’s clearly much better — especially for managers — when people respect and appreciate you for the way you treat them.

What All Of This Means For You

In order to be a successful manager, you need to understand how to get the most out of your team. Ultimately, the performance of your team is what will establish if you are a manager who can get things done. What this means for you is that you are going to have to make a personal decision about how you want to go about motivating your team. You have many different ways to make this happen. Which is the best way for you?

Some managers decide that they want to use fear to get the most out of their teams. There is research that backs this up and says that warm people are seen as being less competent. However, it also turns out that fear can have a negative impact on team performance. Managers who use fear to motivate their team can also cause team members to not speak up and can quickly lose contact with their teams. The best managers are demanding. However, they let their team members know that they care about them. When managers treat their team members with civility, productivity can soar.

What we need to understand as managers is that how we go about treating our teams can have a big impact on how they perform. Fear will get some of the work done, but using civility will get more of the work done. Additionally, civility will make people want to join our team and in the long run that’s what it’s going to take to make you a successful manager.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it would be worthwhile to treat your team members with civility?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Just about every manager these days has probably heard about “Emotional Intelligence”. Just because you’ve heard about it does not mean that you really know what it is. We all think that we understand the parts: emotional and intelligence. However, when you put it together, what is it really talking about? For that matter, why is everyone suddenly talking about it in terms of how we can go about managing our teams?