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Review: The Cost of Bad Behavior

In The Cost of Bad Behavior, Christine Pearson and Christine Porath argue that office incivility is contagious

The book: The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It, by Christine Pearson and Christine Porath; Portfolio; July 2009.

The big idea: Dodgy ethics and accounting pale beside the plague of bad office behavior. But the authors contend that workplace incivility is a quantifiable and correctable scourge.

The backstory: Management professors Pearson and Porath began by looking for early signs of workplace homicides.

Retaliation nation: Bad behavior costs money when talented sufferers leave. Here we learn that one bully can create an army of silent saboteurs among those who stay behind.

If you read nothing else: "Top Ten Things a Firm Should Do to Create a Civil Workplace." Incivility is contagious, so screen prospective clients as well as employees. Departing employees grow more candid, so wait six months before debriefing them. Bosses get away with bad behavior when no one calls them on it, so offer a cash reward to anyone who catches you badmouthing an employee.

Pass it to: Human resources, obviously, and middle management. Come to think of it, just leave copies for everyone wanting in the sweetness-and-light department.

Rigor rating: 10 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). The authors gathered information from 9,000 victims, witnesses, and perpetrators of workplace loutishness and conducted multiple behavioral experiments.

IMAGE: Anthony Verde
Last updated: Jul 1, 2009

LEIGH BUCHANAN | Staff Writer | Editor-at-large, Inc. Magazine

Leigh Buchanan is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.

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