Incivility is Bad Leadership and Bad Business


Yes, another call for civility in the workplace -- and of course the legal sector is notorious for difficult and abusive personalities, from law school professors to law firm partners to judges and everyone in between. I bet every attorney in the U.S. has a horror story. More likely, a dozen horror stories. But incivility isn't just mean. It has a real impact.

Need to put numbers to the problem? Here are some from medicine:

And although we can all be rude now and again, there's no excuse for it to become a leadership style. But that doesn't stop us from offering excuses. Christina Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, writes in her New York Times opinion, "No Time to Be Nice at Work":

It's easy to be more civil. Just saying "thank you" can bring a major change in how people perceive you.

But, in case you need it, here's some extra incentive to be civil: you will be more successful if you are civil.

If you're using job boards as a research tool (and I hope that you are!), then you'll also notice an uptick in job ads that demand lawyers and other employees contribute to a collaborative atmosphere. Quite simply, employers aren't looking to hire jerks. "Team leader" and "team player" aren't just keywords for your resume, they need to reflect an actual commitment to helping your fellow lawyers and colleagues be their best.

If it's a choice between equally qualified candidates, and Candidate A is a jerk while Candidate B is collaborative, you can bet employers will choose Candidate B.

Don't think your technical expertise will insulate you and enable you to be a jerk without repercussions. If it's a choice between the Jerk Lawyer and the Collaborative Lawyer and the Jerk Lawyer is actually more qualified, employers may still choose the Collaborative Lawyer. And if you've been a jerk for two decades, will people give you the heads up on new opportunities (that's networking!)? Will they pass your resume onto the hiring executive or hiring attorney or legal recruiter? Will they line up to give you references? Will they back you without reservation when, even though you didn't volunteer their names, the hiring folks tracked them down anyway through LinkedIn or mutual contacts?

Seriously. Just try to be a nice person. It's not that hard.