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How High is Your Organization’s ‘TCA’ Index? A 12-Step Program to a Kinder, Gentler Workplace

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When Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz was ousted this month, she went out in her classic style, with verbal guns blazing. The woman who once threatened certain Yahoo employees to “drop kick them to f***ing Mars,” told the press after her recent firing that Yahoo had “f***ed me over.”

Are harsh words and harsh behavior becoming more common? About four in 10 people believe the workplace has become increasingly more uncivil and disrespectful in recent years, according to a national Civility in America poll.

fightThe cost isn’t just felt inside the office. The study says Americans this year are shutting their wallets to incivility in much larger numbers. A full 69% of people—up from 54% last year—say they’ve decided not to buy from a company again because they’ve been treated in an uncivil way.

A couple years ago, a best-selling book (The No A**hole Rule by Robert Sutton) brought this issue to national discussion. It described—using the TCA, or “Total Cost of A**holes” formula—how crude and boorish behavior was a serious and costly threat to corporate success … and a trigger for employment lawsuits.

Advice: At the very least, draft a simple employee civility policy or code of conduct that is separate from your harassment policy (see box below).

Still, policies won't gaurantee civility. Deadlines, conflicts and personality differences often pit people against each other. Here are a dozen ideas from Tom Terez, author of the site, to build a kinder workplace:

1. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. There's no substitute for authentic communication.

2. Be less inclined to give advice -- and more inclined to seek it.

3. Identify the biggest redeeming quality of that person who's always driving you crazy. Keep it in mind the next time the two of you interact.

4. When greeting a colleague, skip the mindless how-ya-doin'. Ask a question that shows genuine interest.

5. Go out of your way to say thank you. Sincere appreciation is powerful stuff -- it's feedback, recognition, and respect all wrapped in one.

6. Promise only what you can deliver. If what you deliver falls short, explain why.mad

7. When a rumor reaches your ear, let it go out the other.

8. Show interest in someone else's interests. Okay, maybe you're not dying to hear about Megan's passion for stamp collecting, but Megan will be thrilled you asked.

9. When you take a stand and later realize it's the wrong stand, be honest enough to say so.

10. Involve more people in weighing options and making decisions. There's incredible brainpower all around you, so why not put it to work?

11. If you tend to send e-mails to colleagues who are an easy walk away, give the computer a rest. Get up, walk over, and have a no-tech conversation.

12. Try going a whole day without making judgments about people. Good luck -- it's tough!

So, has the TCA index at your workplace increased in recent years? And how do you handle it ... as a human being and a manager? (Leave your comment below)

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue September 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Robert Sutton’s newer book is also really great, Good Boss, Bad Boss. Most of us are both bosses ourselves and have bosses, he “shows, doesn’t tell” how to both improve your own behavior and tactfully call out your boss when he misbehaves… Lots of interesting, impressive real-life stories to stop the “bad boss” cycle.


Ruby September 26, 2011 at 10:01 am

Wow, Hit the nail on the head. There seems to be no filter on anyones mouth. Have been dealing with this and have just maybe gotten to a place where the employees are beginning to behave.


Michelle September 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm

I terms of language, the bar of “what’s acceptable” seems to have been lowered in recent years. It’s the same thing on TV. Maybe I’m just showing my age, but decorum and modest seems to have left when Twitter and Facebook arrived.


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