top of page

When Politeness Becomes Poisonous

Civility and polite behavior is important in the workplace, a signal that people have respect for one another and don’t make issues personal. Politeness is a helpful lubricant to help keep conflict from escalating and to maintain trust and respect through difficult times. Keeping a high priority on important relationships and protecting them with respectful behavior is wise. What happens, however, when politeness or agreeableness is carried too far?

1. Issue avoidance – Its easy to be nice if we never talk about anything important we might disagree about.

2. Hidden agendas and manipulation – If issues that matter aren’t dealt with openly, they start to get dealt with in sneaky and back-handed ways.

3. Actions speak louder than words – people agree politely in public, then go and do something else that suits their interests better after the meeting.

4. Watch your back – when disagreements can’t be surfaced, negative human behaviors like gossip, back-stabbing, etc can be aroused. You may be the next target of a water cooler character assassination.

Politeness carried too far becomes corrosive to trust. People disagree all the time, it is natural and healthy. Making it a priority to work on how to deal with that fact rather than to avoid it is a great act of leadership. What are you or your team avoiding right now out of politeness? How can you build the trust to deal with conflict in a more healthy way?

6 views0 comments
bottom of page