NLP and Civility at Work

How to boost staff performance, client enthusiasm and improve your bottom line.

If I told you there was a behaviour that happens in pretty much every workplace around the world, that causes a 20% drop in performance in those who witness it, reduces staff time at work by up to 48% and causes client enthusiasm for the organisation to drop by 75% (Porath & Pearson), would you be interested in finding out what it is? 

I’m talking about the simple but incredibly powerful notion of civility. There’s been a spate of research recently about the importance of civility in the workplace. It’s something I find incredibly interesting, as the implications for the clients I work with – business leaders and decision makers – is huge, and it resonates with what I’ve found and been teaching as a coach and trainer for the last 23 years. It’s great to see so much evidence that stands behind Evolution’s message: NLP is at the core of effective communication and the training I’ve been delivering for over 23 years. It’s essential in getting the best out of your staff and colleagues and achieving successful outcomes.

Just a note here – this does not mean outlawing banter and taking an overly-PC attitude to workplace chat. Civility is all about understanding the best way to communicate with the people around you: treating the people you work with, and who work for you with kindness and respect. You should be able to be authentic, to be yourself, but have the skills to understand your audience. Civility allows room for disagreement – it does not mean that bad work should be praised or poor attitudes rewarded. It does mean that employees feel confident in asking questions, and that issues can be raised before they become a problem.

A 2013 Harvard Business Review study collected data from over 14,000 people over a period of 14 years to track the causes, costs and cures of incivility in the workplace. Their research found across the board that incivility ‘erodes productivity, chips away at morale, leads employees to quit, and damages customer relationships’ and that dealing with the knock-on effects can soak up weeks of managerial attention and time. 

Putting civility to work

How to put this idea to work in your organisation? Incivility might be something you’ve observed in your workplace – you might have been on the receiving end, or be aware that it’s something you yourself need to work on. Telling staff ‘just be nice’ will often be met with resistance, or accepted in theory but left by the wayside in practice. 

The best way to model civility in the workplace is from the top down. Decision-makers and managers set the tone for the rest of the staff: almost all of the studies in civility have shown that if managers treat each other and those under them badly, this will trickle down to the rest of the organisation and – crucially – impact that organisation’s bottom line.

Coaching can help. I’ve delivered innumerable training sessions to groups of people who’ve started the day sceptical and openly unwilling to learn. In almost all of those cases, the most resistant people have approached me at the end of the day with their minds completely changed. Here’s some feedback from a few such sceptics who’ve undertaken training with Evolution:

I have been turned from a sceptic into a convert. My eyes have been opened.

Richard Lunnon – Babcock Marine

Common sense that has opened my eyes! I feel an improvement in the way I communicate already!

Melissa Butler – Cheshire Fire and rescue Service

I’m currently working with a number of organisations on a four-day programme, spread over the course of a year, teaching NLP core skills and the idea of civility in the workplace.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how to roll out civility – and in the process improve efficiency, output and employee satisfaction – using NLP, get in touch.


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