I can’t wait for this damn election to be over. The back to back to back to back political ads in which one candidate demeans the character of another is just horrific. I’m not surprised though and something that’s manifesting itself in our politics has been creeping into our business lives for a while. A survey bears out my thinking and the results are incredibly disturbing. The Zogby Survey on Civility in U.S. Politics was commissioned by Allegheny College and reveals chilling trend lines for civility in America.
This isn’t the first time they’ve conducted this survey and the trends are bad. For example, in 2010, 89% of respondents said commenting on another’s race or ethnicity in a political engagement was not okay. Today that number has dropped to 69%, a full 20 points. Similarly, 81% said commenting on someone’s sexual orientation was not acceptable. Today that number is 65%. And the percentage of voters who believe elected officials should pursue personal friendships with members of other parties plummeted even more precipitously, from 85 percent to 56 percent. In other words, civil discourse and reasonable people disagreeing reasonably are dying. 80 percent of 2016 respondents said they believe civility in politics is important for a healthy democracy, compared to 95% in 2010. And 77% of 2016 respondents said it is possible for people to disagree respectfully, compared to 87% of 2010 respondents.
I think it’s impossible for people to exhibit a deviant behavioral pattern when it comes to political issues and not have that pattern carry over into business. In 2010, 77% of respondents thought is was not ok to interrupt someone you disagree with in a public forum. You know – like a business meeting. Todat that number is just over half – 51%. 86% thought is was rude to shout over someone with whom you disagree during an argument. Today that number is only 65%. One need only turn on any cable news “discussion” to know the 65% might just be too high.
“When examining the state of civility among adults who were surveyed, based on the survey questions that were asked both in 2010 and 2016, there seems to be less emphasis on, and a decrease in, acts of civility among adults nationwide,” said Jonathon Zogby, CEO of Zogby Analytics. I see it in business, as I’m sure you do. People can’t finish stating their thoughts before someone jumps on their sentence. People don’t return phone calls or emails. People are late to appointments and meetings for no particular reason. Call it rude or call it dumb; it’s offensive no matter what you call it.
If this election results in nothing else, hopefully, once it’s over and we all take a deep breath, a return to civility in both our politics and our business behavior comes about. I have many friends with whom I disagree vehemently on political issues but we always hear one another out. I have been in meetings where I know that a speaker was dead wrong in their facts or their approach but I listen with an open, respectful mind in case I’ve missed something before I state my case. The trends found by this research are both sad and dangerous. Let’s change them. You in?