Smiling, and Other Simple Ways to Show You Care

April 27, 2017 Sarah Payne

Mastering Civility book cover

In some ways, it’s amazing that we even need to talk about being civil in the workplace. The three fundamentals of civility that WorkHuman speaker Christine Porath shares with us below were taught to us in kindergarten. But we could all use a refresher on what really matters when it comes to connecting with people at work and establishing the trust needed to get through challenging times.

In part two of our Q&A, Porath also shares tips for giving effective feedback and why peer recognition is the most valuable form of recognition we have. You can also listen to our interview in the episode of WorkHuman Radio embedded at the top of this post.



What are the three fundamentals of civility?

Smiling, believe it or not, is a great pathway to expressing warmth. It’s contagious and it allows you to quickly connect with people. Smiling also has health benefits too, so it starts a positive cycle for the person you’re interacting with, but also for you.

Second is to acknowledge people. I’m always surprised at how often I hear people say that their leader will walk past them in the hallway and not acknowledge them at all, much less say, “hello.” That’s incredibly deflating to most people because we want to feel valued. A simple acknowledgement goes a long way.

There’s something called the 10-5 rule that Ochsner Healthcare System in Louisiana put in place. The idea is if you are within 10 feet of someone, you should acknowledge and smile at them. At 5 feet you say, “hello.” Not only did it drive some of their internal metrics, like increasing job satisfaction, but it actually increased patient satisfaction and patient referrals.

The third fundamental is listening effectively. For most of us, that’s extremely challenging because of the pace of work and technology.


How does sharing recognition and gratitude helps us master civility at work?

When leaders are humble and dole out the credit to others, it actually predicts performance, engagement, satisfaction, and retention. There’s also research that shows that recognition boosts motivation and performance of others. When leaders do this, but also peers, it’s valuable because you win people over and they want to work harder for you. It goes a long way to spur morale and creates wins for both parties.

There’s also a trust that builds up and that’s pretty important when it comes to sharing information and speaking up about potential issues. It also helps in terms of promoting a more psychologically safe environment, where people feel greater trust and respect.


You talk about feedback as another form of giving that shows civility. Do you have any tips for delivering feedback that’s more powerful and productive?

If possible, the more specific, the better. If you can highlight strengths, especially when you see them in action, that’s helpful, too. Be sure to focus on the future. What can your employee do to move forward?

The delivery of the feedback can be more important than the message itself. And we have a tendency to think more about what we’re going say, versus how we’re going say it. Being mindful of your non-verbals can make or break how a person walks away from it. Will they be defensive or will they be more open and think that you want to help them along the way? If they feel like your intentions are good, that you were civil, there’s a much greater chance that they embrace it and act on it. And that’s really the best-case scenario.


How do you see social recognition helping to reinforce and measure civil behaviors at work?

I think it’s an awesome thing. I think peer recognition is the most underutilized form of recognition. And yet, peers have the greatest potential of catching people in the act and offering the specific, timely feedback that we just talked about, that’s really going to be most likely to reinforce civil or other behaviors you desire. I think it’s the most valuable form of recognition that we have, and can make the biggest difference.


How do you define a more human workplace?

A more human workplace is one that promotes people’s strengths, capabilities, and functioning. And it really helps lead to high-levels of engagement, productivity, satisfaction, and retention that organizations need and can benefit from.