It’s a very basic notion just to be pleasant to everyone. “It’s nice to be nice to the nice,” your mother used to always say, right?

But turns out, there’s some actual scientific data to back up that it really does pay to be, well, nice.

As reported in Entrepreneur, Christine Porath, a management professor at the University of Southern California, and her colleagues found shocking discoveries within the realm of behavior in the office. For one thing, one out of eight people leave their jobs due to “incivility” (think rude colleagues, small looks of disdain, smirking, and so on). But what makes it worse? Most people never reported these issues.

Furthermore, a separate experiment by Porath found that 80% of participants lost valuable work time fretting about whatever incident of incivility occurred, and 48% intentionally decreased the amount of effort they were putting into their work because of an incident. Added up after several weeks, months, and even years on the job? That’s a huge problem.

So, aside from just being friendly to your co-workers, employees, and bosses, how can you stop office behavioral issues from getting in the way of work? Whether you’re in a management role or not, here are a few things to try.


1. Drop the Less Noticeable Remarks and Body Language

Most of the disrespectful interactions in an office (and generally in life) aren’t outrageous comments or full-on cat fights. We usually start feeling uneasy after we see a colleague roll her eyes or ignore our comments in a meeting. It’s these smaller acts of rudeness that leave you feeling upset and that add up after a while.

So, the first step to a nicer office environment begins with you. Watch your body language when you’re interacting with others, and be careful not to say anything that could even be construed as rude (and yes, even if the co-worker you’re talking about is nowhere to be found). People are able to pick up on your general mood, and it’s way more obvious than you think when you’re upset with someone.

Plus, remember the power of leading by example. If you have a positive attitude, people are sure to follow after a while.


2. Check Your Own Sensitivity Level

You may not able to control your emotions and how you feel when someone says something snarky, but you can take charge of how you react in those situations.

Next time someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, take a step back and look at the big picture. Yes, Julie just said something rude to you. But is this a regular, recurring problem? Or is it a one-time occurrence? Is it possible that she’s just stressed out and taking it out on whoever happened to be in her way?

The bottom line: Make sure you’re not overanalyzing the situation. Typically, we can all tell the difference between someone who’s just in a bad mood and someone who’s purposely going out of his or her way on a daily basis to be unpleasant, but if you find yourself getting upset, make sure to gut check yourself before you take action.


3. Report Problems When They Start to Bother You

One snicker or swipe certainly isn’t worth a visit to your supervisor, but if you start to notice that someone’s behavior is affecting your work, the office workflow, or the dynamics of the team—and you’ve tried confronting him or her about these issues to no avail—it’s time for a chat with someone higher up. Again, it’s this stuff that can really kill a team’s morale, so it’s better to nip it in the bud now than to let it fester around the office.

The best approach? Come in with some record of what’s going on, and get specific. Instead of just saying, “John has been mean to the rest of the team,” try saying, “I’ve noticed over the past several months that whenever we’re in meetings, John has purposely cut people off and made several off-putting comments, like [examples], which have halted the general flow and productivity of the group.” Sounds more directed, right?



Overall, incivility in the office is more dangerous than you think. However, there are definitely easy steps you can take to make sure things don’t go from bad to worse—starting today. Let’s drop the eye rolls, okay?


Photo of businesswoman sitting courtesy of Shutterstock.