September '15

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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LAST LAUGH B Y D A N D A N B O M D id you read that long article in The New York Times about mean bosses? Did your boss interrupt your reading of it with a whack on the side of your head? The author of the article, Christine Porath, is an associate pro- fessor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, and has made a study of workplace behavior. In this particular piece, she concludes that workplace incivility diminishes people's health, performance, and souls. And, she wrote, workplace rude behavior has grown over the past two decades. Professor Porath notes that acts of incivility can include a boss walk- ing away from a conversation, taking calls in the middle of meetings without leaving the room, openly mocking people in front of oth- ers, putting down employees by reminding them of their subservient roles, and taking credit for wins but pointing fingers when problems arise. To this list, I would add calling an employee "Carl" when their name is really "Nancy," making employees do homework for the boss's children, stealing a soft drink from the office refrigerator and then complaining that it isn't diet, yelling, insisting on unpaid over- time, and not telling someone when their pants are unzipped. One of the reasons for this growing problem is the fact that few managers are taught how to manage. Through watching television or seeing other managers in action, they believe that it is not lead- er-like to act human. They believe that if they're kind, friendly, and helpful, they will be taken advantage of. They think that "tough" equates with "competent" more than it equates to "supreme jerk." However, even when management training is offered, it isn't too hot. It seems to focus on getting the most out of employees instead mak- ing the most of employees. When I was a manager, the focus was on ordering people around. If said people—excuse me, "human resources"—didn't do as we said, we were shown how to perform what was called, "progressive discipline," which began with an oral warning and progressed to a written warning, suspension, termination, deportation, excommu- nication, and execution. It was a badge of honor to be feared and despised by employees, and managers wore that badge proudly right up to the time the company went belly-up. Research suggests that, "civility elicits perceptions of warmth and competence," whatever "warmth" is. It turns out that these two traits create our impressions of others. Who knew? I once had a boss whose warmth and competence could not be found, even with an electron microscope. He was fond of telling employees that they were dumb or lazy, and punctuated his speech with deep sighs and eye rolls. Responding to his masterful management style, employees began to sabotage him by withholding good ideas, "forgetting" to tell him that the CEO was looking for him, and putting his name and office address on mailing lists. He is no longer with the compa- ny, and, I believe, has changed careers. I last heard he worked in a slaughterhouse. You'd think that it would be common sense for managers to know that if they listen, smile, share, and thank others more often, em- ployees would be happier, more committed, and more productive. But apparently, it isn't. I don't know about you, but the next time I'm in a position to manage employees, I'm going to make it a point to smile at them, be a better listener, and praise Carl when he does a good job. Or is it Nancy? Dan Danbom is a Denver writer and the author of "Humor Meets the Workforce: Make Laughter One of Your Organization's Goals." 112 || P R I N T W E A R S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 5 Try a Little Tenderness

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