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Written Testimony of Christine Porath Associate Professor, Georgetown University McDonough School of Business

Meeting of October 31, 2018 - Revamping Workplace Culture to Prevent Harassment

Good morning Chair Lipnic and other distinguished members of this Commission. I am Christine Porath, a professor in the Management department at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. I have studied civility and organizational culture for over twenty years. I have taught courses on leadership, organizational culture, organizational change, and power and politics in organizations. I have been asked to share some information on civility, how it's tied to harassment, how training in civility can be used to address and prevent harassment, and how social networking analysis can be used as a tool to assess civility.

ncivility is rude, discourteous behavior that shows low regard for others, violating norms of mutual respect in social interactions. Incivility is in the eyes of the recipient. It varies not just by individual but also by culture, generation, gender, and organization. Civility in the fullest sense requires something more: positive gestures of respect, dignity, courtesy, or kindness.

In workplaces where incivility is present, harassment is more likely. Incivility creates a culture of disrespect in which harassing behaviors may seem more permissible and more likely to be tolerated. In studies of attorneys and court employees, researchers found significant correlations between incivility and sexual harassment. Researchers have also found that uncivil behaviors can escalate into harassing behaviors.

By promoting civility and respect, organizations may significantly reduce harassment. One way to do this is through civility training which tends to focus on the positive - what employees and managers should do to build a workplace where people feel respected and valued (rather than on what they should not do). Civility training has the benefit of engaging all employees versus a much smaller proportion of people that are perceived or perceive themselves as potential harassers. Civility training also has the potential to increase influence, build trust and collaboration, foster inclusion, increase performance and patient safety, and reduce bullying and harassment.

Civility training often includes the costs of incivility, the benefits of civility, what constitutes appropriate or inappropriate behavior, self-awareness about one's behavior, interpersonal skills training, and coaching on what to do if you're a target or witness of incivility. There is often a discussion about how gender, culture, and other individual differences affect perceptions of civility and responses to incivility.

Leaders should receive training about how to promote a culture of civility, and how to hold people accountable for incivility. Leaders set the tone.  A study of cross-functional product teams revealed that when leaders treated members of their team well, and fairly, the team members were more productive individually and as a team. They also were more likely to go above and beyond their job requirements. It all starts at the top. When leaders are civil, it increases performance and creativity; allows for early mistake detection and the initiative to take actions; and reduces emotional exhaustion.

Civility allows teams to function better in large part by helping employees feel safer, happier, and better. In my study of over twenty thousand employees, those who felt respected by their leader reported 92 percent greater focus and prioritization and 55 percent more engagement.   By creating a civil climate, you can enable greater collaboration marked by people who reciprocate respectful behavior.

There is strong empirical evidence supports the effectiveness of workplace civility trainings. For example, in hospital settings, researchers found significant improvements in employee reports of incivility, burnout, trust in management, and absences using a program they called "CREW" (Civility, Respect, and Engagement in the Workforce). I have found that workplace civility training improves feelings of respect, and decreases perceptions of bullying and harassment.

In addition to training, leaders may use various tools to ascertain their culture and trace improvements. For example, social network analysis is a wonderful tool that can help us determine the nuances of relationships: How are people perceived? How are they scored for civility? Such analysis also allows us to comprehend the bigger picture: Who is working well with others? Who is bringing departments together or keeping them apart? And how are these relationships affecting the team, the network, the organization?

Managers might sense a problem between two individuals, but it's much harder to detect broader issues. Organizational or social network analysis brings these underlying issues to the fore. We use short, ten-minute surveys to ascertain the positive or negative health of groups of employees. We ask employees to evaluate their positive and negative relationships with others as well as the perceived civility of their fellow employees. We combine this data to create network maps and measures. This data then allows us to evaluate individual relationships as well as how civility or incivility is affecting the network as a whole. Similar analysis could be done to track the extent of workplace harassment.

Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this significant effort to understand and prevent harassment in the workplace, and build more respectful workplaces where people can thrive.