Book Review June 2009
The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It
Authors: Christine Pearson and Christine Porath
Christine Pearson and Christine Porath define incivility as “the exchange of seemingly inconsequential inconsiderate words and deeds that violate conventional norms of workplace conduct.” It can be as simple as checking e-mail or text messages during a meeting or as elaborate as setting up colleagues for failure, but incivility — bad behavior — has become rampant in the workplace.
In The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It, Pearson and Porath posit that incivility at work affects both the mood of the targeted employees and the entire company. Consider current statistics on workplace incivility: 96 percent of U.S. workers have experienced incivility in the workplace; 12 percent left their jobs because they were treated uncivilly; 88 percent of U.S. workers said they got even with their organizations when treated with incivility; 94 percent got even with the offenders.
Pearson and Porath spent a decade compiling data about incivility from all levels in various organizations and learning about the ways in which it can damage well-functioning companies. Participants in their research reveal offenses as targets, managers, leaders, witnesses and offenders. The authors’ goal is to lead readers to take a closer look at their own organization and their own behavior. As such, the book is divided into three short sections that introduce incivility, its prevalence and characteristics; reveal incivility’s costs, including who get hurts and how; and describes what individuals and organizations can do to promote a civil environment.
While the performance costs of incivility are difficult to fully quantify, targets do find ways to exact retribution. In fact, incivility erodes conditions that lead to optimal team effectiveness, including cooperation, creativity and information flow. In many cases, incivility has led to decreased employee performance, increased workplace stress, reduced employee retention and eroded corporate culture and reputation. Each has a financial impact on any organization, whether it is additional money spent replacing employees or money and opportunities lost because of poor performance.
The Cost of Bad Behavior provides best practices from five companies, including Cisco and Starbucks, that are cultivating civility in the workplace and that attribute some of their success to these practices. It includes 10 actions that all firms should take to encourage civil behavior: Set zero-tolerance expectations; look in the mirror; weed out trouble before it enters your organization; teach civility; train employees and managers on how to recognize and respond to signals; put your ear to the ground and listen carefully; hammer civility when it occurs; take complaints seriously; don’t make excuses for powerful instigators; invest in post-departure interviews.
Reviewed by Janelle Gordon
The Challenge for Africa
By Wangari Maathai
Pantheon Books, April 2009
319 pp., $25
As education and business opportunities flourish in Africa, newness abounds on the continent on every front. Yet it’s the woeful stories that seem to capture headlines.
In her latest book, The Challenge for Africa, Kenyan-born Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai reflects upon and examines the economic and environmental problems Africa faces. She assesses solutions she believes will further deliver “real achievements.” Maathai says, “I believe passionately in the need for African communities to discover the value of embracing their own destiny and determining their own futures ….” Maathai’s appealing message is an expressive plea, as she states wholeheartedly that “ultimately the fate of the continent depends on its people.”
Reviewed by Clarence V. Reynolds
The Long Fall: The First Leonid McGill Mystery
By Walter Mosley
Riverhead Books, March 2009
320 pp., $25.95
Mosley’s latest detective story is set against the streets of modern-day New York City, in which the city’s multiracial makeup also plays a role. Leonid (LT) McGill, a former boxer turned private sleuth, is a character of deep introspection. “I still plied my trade but now I worried about things,” he confesses. McGill was once a nefarious “PI for the various mobs and crews.” Now he’s working to put his past behind him and live a legitimate, somewhat virtuous, life. But LT takes on two jobs and both seem dicey. He’s also trapped in a loveless marriage. Opting for a contemporary setting, Mosley spins yet another splendid, suspense-packed novel.
Reviewed by Clarence V. Reynolds