Why You Should Be Nice at Work—Even if You Don’t Have Time for It

Flexing one's muscles to garner power actually leads to less productivity and more health problems over the long run, according to new research.

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Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, has surveyed people across 17 industries to find out why incivil behavior happens within organizations. The major finding? More than 40 per cent claim they don’t have time to be nice.

In the Sunday Times, Porath pours over recent studies that indicate just how damaging a mean boss can be. On the health side, there’s repurcussions for the immune system as well as elevated hormones that influence appetite and weight. On the organizational side, incivility “hijacks” focus. In one case, Porath’s study participants were belitted before being asked to complete a word puzzle. They performed 33 per cent worse and came up with 39 per cent fewer creative ideas during a brainstorming task. Porath’s second study tackled another dynamic at the heart of mean boss ettiquette: rudeness.

In our second study, a stranger—a “busy professor” encountered en route to the experiment—was rude to participants by admonishing them for bothering her. Their performance was 61 percent worse on word puzzles, and they produced 58 percent fewer ideas in the brick task than those who had not been treated rudely. We found the same pattern for those who merely…