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Could being 'too polite' cost your business money?

It's no secret that the British are well-known for being "polite." New research however, suggests that managers behaving too politely could cost their business a small fortune.

Nearly 80 percent of office-based managers surveyed in the U.K. believe that being too polite could effectively cost their company extra money, according to online expenses management provider, Webexpenses.


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Almost two thirds of the 1,000 U.K. managers surveyed online, acknowledged that they were too well-mannered in dealing with difficult discussions, with many failing to call out their employees on simple issues related to office etiquette and punctuality.

Over a fifth of bosses failed to confront their workers when they took a longer lunch than usual (22 percent), or when they arrived late to work (21 percent).

Despite these specific figures however, the U.K.'s Trade Union Congress earlier this year published statistics that seem to contradict this stereotype of a polite, nervous boss. In 2014, U.K. employees contributed almost £32 billion ($50.3BN) worth of unpaid overtime to their managers; with the U.K. public sector benefitting from £11.6 billion in free hours a year.

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Potentially a more worrisome figure is that 20 percent admitted that they hadn't challenged those who submit a fraudulent expenses claim, with many commenting on how they wouldn't know how to handle such an "awkward" situation.

The survey showed that 20 percent of managers chose not to confront their employees based on the belief of maintaining a calm morale in the work environment. This group of bosses allegedly didn't want to upset anyone or felt uncomfortable at the thought of having these conversations with employees.

Adam Reynolds, CEO of webexpenses, said in a statement that this "stereotypical British politeness" is having huge negative impact on U.K. business.

"The findings of our research clearly show that stereotypical British politeness is having an increasingly detrimental effect on the nation's businesses. The reluctance of UK managers to challenge their employees over simple discrepancies and a failure to observe simple workplace protocol could be costing these organisations considerable amounts of money and time."

Potentially less surprising, however, bosses are afraid of confronting business clients when it comes to awkward discussions, for instance a quarter didn't challenge an overdue payment.

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Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Cass Business School London, Andre Spicer, explained to CNBC why these results aren't too surprising.

"Often people are promoted for their ability to be polite and nice. But when they find themselves at high levels, this can become a trap. It means they find it hard to say what they mean and make judgements which can sometimes be harsh."

"Organisations can often be afraid to make difficult calls. I have seen organisations restructure entire divisions just to get rid of one disruptive person. They were too scared to call this person out, so they did it in a more subtle fashion," said Spicer.

Spicer suggests one way out of these difficulties is that while rude behavior should not be advised in organizations, people need to be allowed "some space and time to "speak the truth" while making it clear "they won't be punished for shouting the emperor has no clothes."

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