Posts Tagged ‘Civility in America’
It is turning into a red hot trend and helping to chip away at that uncivil reputation about America. And it is happening right here now. A colleague at work even told me how a total stranger ahead of her on line paid for her cup of coffee the other day and how touched she was. Then I saw this article on the concept of paying it forward. When cars are waiting on line to order a burger or chicken sandwich or milkshake at their local drive thru, they pay for the person behind them — no strings attached. And it just starts a wave of others doing the same. “We really don’t know why it’s happening but if I had to guess, I’d say there is just a lot of stuff going on in the country that people find discouraging,” said Mark Moraitakis, director of hospitality at Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A. “Paying it forward is a way to counteract that.” Some of these drive-thru operators are saying that this happens several times a day now. Because I dont drive often, I have experienced it less frequently here in New York City. However, it’s a great idea for enhancing our reputation as a nation of kind human beings that have the capacity to speak in civil tongues (unlike the shenanigans in DC). For more on Civility in America, read here. Happy halloween!
I was very pleased when I saw that the WSJ covered our thought leadership survey Civility in America yesterday (mid day it was the 4th most popular on the site!). In their article on incivility at work, they mentioned our stat that one in four Americans (26%) have quit their job due to the unpleasantry and rudeness they have encountered at work.The rate of Americans who have quit a job because it was an uncivil workplace decreases with age. Interesting, right? This could be that younger people are less tolerant to incivility at work or that it is more acceptable in today’s society to quit a job.
There is no doubt about the fact that incivility is seeping into all aspects of our lives. According to our research with Powell Tate and KRC Research, the rise in uncivil workplaces has risen over the past 12 months, from 34% to 37%. This might be part of the reason that 75% of Americans think we should have civility training in schools today. What could be a better place to start. You might say a good place to start would be at home. Maybe so but the survey found that 30% of Americans say they experience incivility at home and 55% see it in their neighbors’ homes. Nothing like fingerpointing.
One of the questions we asked this year still intrigues me when it comes to this timely topic. We asked people in late Spring when we did the survey whether they would take a national civility pledge on July 4th. Well, a whopping 87% said they would. There was no disagreement here — men, women, all age and income groups and regions of the country were willing to spend an entire day being just plain civil. My sense is that the same high percentage would apply to this upcoming Labor Day. I am going to do my best as a party of one to be as civil as I can be, even if it surprises someone. All of our reputations in this country depend on it.
When I first heard this story last weekend about AOL CEO Tim Armstrong publically firing the Patch creative director on a conference call, I was not sure what to think. It was quite the uncivil thing to do. At Weber Shandwick, we had just released our annual survey on Civility in America and I was troubled by the finding that one in four Americans (26%) had quit their jobs because of an uncivil workplace. This figure was higher than it was in 2010 (20%). When I heard that the public firing before 1,000 people was recorded and leaked to a web site, making its way across the world wide web, I thought that too was uncivil. All in all, not good news for Armstrong’s reputation.
I was wondering how this would all shake out or when an apology or statement would come from above and here it is. Unfortunately, the reputation of the workplace is highly impacted by the actions of the CEO and especially by how a CEO behaves during tough times which Patch is experiencing as they prepare for layoffs at the end of this week. His taking responsibility, regardless of the situation, and acknowledging his accountability was the right thing to do to bring some equilibrium back to the situation. You cannot explain away incivilty when it comes to CEO leadership because most people will regard it as just an excuse. Therefore, Armstrong’s apology does not dwell too much on why he fired Lenz the way he did. Since apologies are increasingly common among CEOs and leaders, I thought I would post below in case anyone is looking for an example in the weeks and months to come.
I am writing you to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz. It was an emotional response at the start of a difficult discussion dealing with many people’s careers and livelihoods. I am the CEO and leader of the organization, and I take that responsibility seriously. We talk a lot about accountability and I am accountable for the way I handled the situation, and at a human level it was unfair to Abel. I’ve communicated to him directly and apologized for the way the matter was handled at the meeting.
My action was driven by the desire to openly communicate with over a thousand Patch employees across the U.S. The meeting on Friday was the second all-hands we had run that week and people came to Friday’s meeting knowing we would be openly discussing some of the potential changes needed at Patch. As you know, I am a firm believer in open meetings, open Q&A, and this level of transparency requires trust across AOL. Internal meetings of a confidential nature should not be filmed or recorded so that our employees can feel free to discuss all topics openly. Abel had been told previously not to record a confidential meeting, and he repeated that behavior on Friday, which drove my actions.
We have been through many difficult situations in turning around AOL and I have done my best to make the best decisions in the long-term interest of the employees and the company. On Friday I acted too quickly and I learned a tremendous lesson and I wanted you to hear that directly from me.
We have tough decisions and work to do on Patch, but we’re doing them thoughtfully and as openly as we can. At AOL, we had strong earnings last week and we’re adding one of the best companies in the world to the team. AOL is in a great position, and we’ll keep moving forward.
I wonder if you have heard about the new reputation model that Microsoft is using with its Xbox, the video game. It is actually called Reputation and it alerts you to whether you’re planing with a jerk or cheat. This is their way of keeping out the trouble-makers. It uses a community powered algorithm that alerts the player to whom they are playing with. Pretty clever. Here is an interview I found online with Xbox LIVE program manager Michael Dunn:
The new model will take all of the feedback from a player’s online flow, put it in the system with a crazy algorithm we created and validated with an MSR PhD to make sure things are fair for everyone. Ultimately, your reputation score will determine which category you are assigned – “Green = Good Player,” “Yellow = Needs Improvement” or “Red = Avoid Me.” Looking at someone’s gamer card you’ll be able to quickly see their reputation. And, your reputation score is ultimately up to you. The more hours you play online without being a jerk, the better your reputation will be; similar to the more hours you drive without an accident, the better your driving record and insurance rates will be. Most players will have good reputations and be seen as a “Good Player.” The algorithm is looking to identify players that are repeatedly disruptive on Xbox Live. We’ll identify those players with a lower reputation score and in the worse cases they will earn the “Avoid Me” reputation. Before a player ends up with the “Avoid Me” reputation level we will have sent many different alerts to the “Needs Improvement” player reminding them how their social gaming conduct is affecting lots of other gamers.
Just imagine if we could do this with social media in general. As I mentioned in a previous post, we just finished our fourth annual survey on Civility in America and found that incivility online is becoming more of a hazard than years ago. But just imagine if your reputation was called out and you could avoid all those uncivil people who are bent on maligning your reputation or making your day miserable. Now the tables are turned. If only we could take this algorithm to the Internet in general and all those “Avoid Me” people would be scratched out of our online lives.
We at Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate with KRC Research take the topic of civility seriously (see Civility in America, our third annual survey) because it impacts the reputation of the United States and affects public discourse. The new survey we just released is among 1,053 adults, 18+, and was conducted between September 14-16th. Data were weighted to align with the U.S. population distribution.
We found two-thirds (66 percent) of likely voters saying incivility was a major problem in society with 85 percent also saying political campaigns are uncivil. By a margin of almost 2 to1 (62 percent to 32 percent), likely voters said incivility has always been part of the political process but more than three-quarters (78 percent) said incivility in politics is worse now than it has ever been.
Since the debates are upon us (first one is tomorrow night), we decided to ask Americans about they perceived the civility of the candidates. Here is what we learned – there is a civility gap between the candidates:
- A majority of likely voters, 55 percent – 42 percent, considers President Obama’s campaign tone to be civil, while a plurality, 49 percent – 45 percent, perceives Governor Romney’s tone as uncivil. The civility gap is potentially significant because nearly half of likely voters polled, 48 percent, say the candidate’s civility will be a “very important” factor in how they vote.
- The gap was much less pronounced for the Vice Presidential candidates. Vice President Biden was seen as civil by a margin of 49 percent to 43 percent while likely voters were evenly split in their assessment of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, with 46 percent saying he was civil and the same number saying he had been uncivil.
- Fifty-seven percent of likely voters say that any incivility demonstrated on the debate stage will affect their votes. The sentiment was shared equally by self-described Democrats (54 percent), Republicans (55 percent) and Independents (58 percent).
- If you saw today’s Wall Street Journal article on incivility online, we could have told them that 23 percent of likely voters said they defriended someone on Facebook or stopped following them on Twitter not because of their political views but because those views were expressed uncivilly.
- And when it comes to tuning OUT of political advertising, a sizeable 75 percent of likely voters are doing so and nearly as many – 72 percent — are tuning out when they receive emails asking for political campaign support. My in-box is full, how’s yours?
All of this comes down to the degradation of political reputations in the future. We learned that seventy-three percent of likely voters say that incivility in politics deters qualified people from going into public service. That’s a large number and if it is as true as it must be, we have a lot of work ahead of us.
I guess I knew it would happen quickly but I did not expect it to happen so soon and so disturbingly. Our survey on Civility in America was released just this week. Many Americans (55%) believe that incivility is only getting worse and 81% believe it is harming our future. No doubt about the fact that it is hurting our reputation. Although I was immersed in my work today, I just glimpsed at a Twitter mention of a reporter interrupting President Obama’s speech in the Rose Garden on a new policy on immigration. Apparently the reporter called out or tried to interrupt with questions which is unusual when the president is speaking. Where’s the decorum these days?
A reputation for uncivil discourse is not good for America’s reputation. We at Weber Shandwick just launched our third annual survey on Civility in America. We started investigating this fascinating topic about two years ago when I heard political consultant David Gergen mention at a conference that President Obama was seriously giving thought on how to make civility more interesting so that we could eradicate the rising tide of incivility in our nation. This idea just stayed with me for weeks and I thought that this had to be one of the more provocative subjects for further research and one that a leading public relations firm should investigate and begin making a difference in. After all, we are all about conversation, engagement and dialogue. Of course, little did I realize at the time, that the topic would turn explosive and that few Americans would be untouched by incivility a few years later. We started thinking about civility in America before the horrible events that occurred with the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, Tyler Clementi’s suicide, cyber bullying and the debt ceiling debates — just to name a few instances of extreme incivility. The amazing part of learning about incivility for me was how it extends beyond what we first think about when we hear the word incivility. It extends beyond politics and the media to schools, shopping, roadways, and our neighborhoods.
Some of the findings are truly amazing….
- 55% of Americans expect civility in America to get worse
- 81% believe incivility in government is harming America’s future
- 72% believe incivility in politics deters qualified people from going into public service
- 67% expect the upcoming November election process to be uncivil
- 83% say a candidate’s civility will be an important factor in the 2012 presidential election
- 39% have defriended or blocked someone online because of uncivil behavior
- 18% have personally experienced cyberbullying or incivility online (double from last year)
- 66% say cyberbullying is getting worse
I will continue to post about this because America’s reputation deserves better. The heartening note was that people are starting to stand up against incivility. We found that nearly 4 in 10 Americans are defriending or blocking people online who are uncivil in their commentary and even more (44%) said they have ended a friendship over someone’s uncivil behavior. This is optimistic news.
I spent last Saturday afternoon reading the Harvard Business Review issue which has Reinventing America on the cover. The March 2012 issue. It holds alot of information about how to bring back America and make it a desirable location for businesses around the world. It is rich with information and insights. I highly recommend. In one article on what’s wrong with politics in the U.S., (definitely read), you start to realize that one big problem facing the reptuation of the USA is our intractable political warfare. It is hurting America’s reputation as a place to do business. The point is that there are many advantages to locating business in the U.S. but the political problems are creating barriers to consideration. One suggestion from the article is the following which falls in line with our work on Civility in America. We are hoping to conduct our third wave on Civility in America in May or June so we will be sure to look into the demand for getting civics classes back into the classroom. A call for action. America’s reputation has to turn around and Congress is not going to be the stimulus. Business will.
Stand up for civics. Business leaders should urge public officials—and the public at large—to restore civics to its rightful place in the classroom. Data show that many schools fail to effectively teach the workings of U.S. democracy or the responsibilities that go with citizenship. Just as America cannot be globally competitive without a well-educated workforce, it cannot retain its economic edge without a well-educated electorate that is ready to meet the relentless challenges of democratic governance.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, Congresswoman from Arizona. And let’s not forget the unnecessary killings of six people including a young 9 year old. Many were also hurt, including our nation’s reputation.
At Weber Shandwick, we started studying civility in June 2010 with a follow up in 2011. We realized that civil discourse was taking a turn for the worse in 2010 and we set out to better understand how the American public felt about this . We did not of course realize what was to come in the Arizona killing spree but we definitely knew that America’s reputation for civility was heading in the wrong direction.
Our research with Powell Tate and KRC Research on civility was breakthrough for a pr firm. The coverage has been consistently high. There are approximately 10 million mentions of civility when I last searched.
The idea came to me when I was at the Council of PR Firms’ annual event in October 2009. David Gergen, the political commentator and advisor to presidents, was a guest speaker and he was talking about how President Obama had mentioned how he had to figure out a way to get people interested in civility. The light bulb went on in my head and I could not let it go. Why not ask Americans what they thought of the tone of our national discourse in politics, schools, on television, online and in sports? How had the American public square become so unruly and what did Americans think they could do about it? And so we started the research. I am proud that Weber Shandwick added to the national conversation in a thoughtful and meaningful way. In my opinion, we should make it our business to teach people what is civil and uncivil behavior. There needs to be a national public education program to better inform people what the limits are.
In 2011 when we did the last survey, Americans expected civility to erode even further. Whereas more than one-third (39%) expected things to turn less civil when surveyed in 2010, more than one out of two Americans — 55% — expected a lack of civility to become the norm in 2011. And incivility did become the norm, not just in politics but in cyberbullying, school bullying and workplace bullying. I could not even guess what people think now as we enter the political cycle. We will be asking again as the incivility season (oops I meant silliness season) begins again.
At least tomorrow, on the one year anniversary of the Arizona tragedy, we can hold our tongues and keep our clicks at bay and be civil to our neighbors. The Arizona tragedy was not really due to incivility but due to the mental illness of a lone shooter. But it did touch the nation’s nerve and made us all think twice about the widening of our civility deficit.
Industry reputation is always changing. One of the major shifts in reputation today is the collateral damage that one company can inflict on its entire industry. Wish there was a more positive incline in how consumers see American business and government. Gallup’s recent analysis is now out and provides a look into who is up and who is down. It is no surprise that the real estate industry reputation has declined preciptiously from 2001. Even my own industry — PR — has witnessed a decline besides the fact that it is doing well. The computer and Internet industry look like they are surviving the best with positive lifts in reputation among US consumers.
The drop in perception of government, the deepest decline, seems to the theme of the day. To learn more about why that might be…take a look at our research on Civility in America. It says it all. [Have to add that the CEO of Yahoo, Carol Bartz, was fired via a telephone call. How civil is that? Regardless of what was happening at the company, what happened to the pink slip?]
|Overall View of Selected Business Sectors (% of U.S. Consumers)|
|Industry||% Positive||% Neutral||% Negative||Change in Positive Since 2001|
|Farming & Agriculture||57||22||19||-2|
|Television & Radio||39||21||40||-3|
|Electric & Gas utilities||38||20||40||7|
|Advertising & PR||32||29||37||-6|
|Oil & Gas||20||15||64||-4|
|Source: Gallup, August 2011|