What Are You, Some Kind of Moron? Civility in the Workplace

You got a problem with this blog post? What are you some kind of moron?


Chances are that you’ve probably worked for an organization or had clients who thought that being a jerk was a key to their success. Early in my work life I worked for a company where the CEO acted like a crime boss and would verbally abuse people in meetings. This culture permeated throughout the organization leading to high turnover and burnout. The CEO was wealthy, and the company was profitable, but there’s a chance it could have been even more wealthy and profitable had it followed the advice of Christine Porath in her Ted Talk Why Being Respectful to Your Co-Workers is Good for Business.


Porath and her colleague Christine Pearson conducted a survey quantifying the role that incivility plays in demotivating employees. It turns out that being rude to employees makes them less motivated, worry more, or quit their job.


Asking people if they are a moron is not much of a motivator. Who knew? Perhaps this means that the way to suffer fools is gladly, and not just at work. It’s not always easy – occasionally you do run into people that leave you wondering if they mentally checked out to the point where you want to shake some sense into them. But then shaking them is more likely to lead to brain injury, which is the opposite of the intention of shaking sense into them. The lesson then is that shaking people does not ever have the desired effect of either motivating or knocking sense into someone.


(Just a side note: I do not ever seriously advocate shaking or physically abusing anyone.)


As you’ve no doubt guessed, I left that job with the bullying CEO and went on to other positions with other companies, some more civil than others. As a freelancer, I find that my clients and I often treat other with mutual respect, but that doesn’t always work out.


Once I was in a session with some tricky jargon in a field in which I did not have a background. I spent some time the night before the session looking up pronunciations of the words. During the session, with the end client on the phone, I asked the end-client to clarify pronunciation and tripped over some of the sentences which necessitated alternate takes – not unusual in the voiceover business. In fact, nailing a read the first time is highly unusual.


At the end of the session the end-client said something to the effect of: “This has been a waste of time and Chris needs to come to the session better prepared.” I was taken aback. Before I could respond she hung up the phone. Was she really expecting that I nail five syllable words I’ve never used before on the first take?


Her comments were passive-aggressive, rude and uncivil. As a freelancer, I value every client that wants to pay me to voice their script, but this end-client motivated me to not want to work with her again with her dismissive comments about my effort.

So the bottom line is this: treat your co-workers, employees, freelancers and clients with respect. Your business will be better for it.

Warm, friendly, professional voice talent specializing in corporate narration, explainer videos, and e-learning. Most projects are turned around within 24 hours from my studio. 






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