Thursday, January 31, 2013


Toward the end of 2012 I had a great honor of doing several very senior level Team Members' annual reviews (more like annual alignments). I had a pretty interesting way of opening the meetings by giving a full laundry list of disclaimers. I would disclaim that it was not about coming up with a performance score, that I might be missing context, and that it was all about alignment and self-awareness. I would end with my favorite disclaimer of, “just because I believe you might want to grow in this area, doesn’t mean that I believe I am any better at it”. :D

Incivility… when I first read the word I couldn’t figure out what it even meant? I asked the person I was with and while we could break down the pieces, we didn’t fully capture its true meaning until looking it up and having a discussion about it. This might actually be some of the problem… in that we are missing common vocabulary to describe it. 'Incivility' actually means actions (behaviors) lacking in civility. For the rest of us non-English majors: lack of good manners, rudeness, lack of respect or niceness and at the company where I work “No Hug-Factor”!

Incivility or “No Hug-Factor” is likely costing your company a ton of money and is certainly, over time, leading to a lower performing organization with a crappier culture.

We first created the term Hug-Factor to explain how we should be treating each other within and beyond the company… Everyone (EVERYONE: Team Members, Candidates, Clients, UPS Person…EVERYONE) we interacted with whether in email, chat, phone or in person should feel better after interacting with us. You know that feeling you get after a great big hug from someone you know cares about you? They should feel like that, like just being hugged, just virtually. This might seem extreme, but it gave us great context to discuss interactions, educate new Team Members and hold each other accountable. I can’t begin to count the number of times the term Hug-Factor has been thrown around at our company to suggest civility wasn’t present enough… we also recognized it when someone does it extremely well. As I look back this might be one of the biggest things we got right early on. Due to it, you are typically excited to get to work, talk to people, share ideas, voice your thoughts… simply (and at the most basic level) because you know people will be nice to you.

I have worked with many management teams over the years… and they have almost all completely dissed the idea. Interesting how they all believe, to different levels, that incivility should be accepted, and the higher you climbed in the organization the more acceptable it should become. WTF? Was there some equation between the amount you got paid and the incivility you were to accept or deliver. When challenged, there was always some justification of optimization or performance that the leadership felt excused the behaviors. Most certainly, over time this transferred to other areas of the organization, even when it was coached to remain only at the management level.

So does it really matter? Well.

*50% of employees surveyed deliberately decreased their efforts or quality when they felt disrespected.
*63% lost work time avoiding the offenders of incivility.
*78% said that their commitment to the organization declined after acts of incivility.
*People treated rudely were 30% less creative and generated 25% fewer ideas.
*People whom simply witnessed incivility were 50% less likely to volunteer.
*Managers and Executives at Fortune 1000 firms spent 13% of their time dealing with the aftermath of incivility (That’s 7 whole weeks… way more than the vacation being giving).

Just ONE habitually offensive employee critically positioned in an organization can cost you dearly in lost employees, lost productivity, lost customers, and loss revenues. Having a way to focus on building and maintaining an organization with lots of Hug-Factor is super critical to success. While there are lots and lots of things you should be doing to weed out incivility and promote Hug-Factor in your organization, below are my top 3:

1. Name It – Personally we would be honored if others adopted the term Hug-Factor, but feel free to come up with whatever name you like. I personally believe the terms civility/incivility are too complex and people will not adopt them even if they understand them. Simply by naming it, you give your organization a way to discuss it.   

2. Train It – During our orientation we explain the term Hug-Factor and do some brief training on what it means, when it should be used, and what the expectations around it are. That’s a good start, but I have challenged our on-boarding team to turn this into a full-blown training session on Hug-Factor.   

3. Demand It – Require that ALL employees treat EVERYONE simply as nice as possible. This needs to start at the leadership level and roll down. We have it directly referenced in our Core Values and several action statements in our Corporate Guidance documents; and the Team Members hold each other pretty accountable to it… our CEO as well! :D

While none of this stuff is rocket science, putting time, effort and energy into it, at a constant and continuous level, can be weary. I hope that by understanding its payoffs, as well as, its negative effects, more organizations might break the equation and commit to it. I certainly believe that at the most basic level it is the single most important thing you can do to secure the long term success of your organization.

So I ask you...  will you pay more for incivility? Or optimize based on Hug-Factor?  :D

*The Price of Incivility - Harvard Business Review (January - February 2013)