Importance of Civility in the Workplace

93% of Americans Feel Civility is a Problem

Coworker Being Rude During MeetingA yearly poll recently conducted by Weber Shandwich and Powell Tate KRC Research documented that 93% of Americans feel that “civility” in today’s society is problematic. It also states that within that sample, 69% of respondents feel civility is a major problem. The good news, however, is that employees have expressed by a 9:1 ratio they are glad that civility in the workplace has improved over the years. Those employees who do not feel this way look to management with distrust in handling complaints brought to their attention regarding the poor behavior of supervisors and/or a co-workers. Furthermore, the research indicates that training the workforce in management’s ownership of a more diverse and inclusive culture is a reason why employees treat each other with more respect and dignity compared to a culture where employers are weak on diversity or exude uncivil behaviors within their team.

A recent Reuters caption reinforced a common but not so commonly heard greeting of the word “hello” in the morning to co-workers. This simple saying “gives the impression of a more equal workplace where everyone is valued.” This tradition of greeting one another with this saying paired a smile each day is one that is slowly becoming forgotten. Is it because it is too early in the morning or because there is not enough coffee that causes us to not enjoy saying or completely avoid this daily practice all together? Believe it or not, this is a global ubiquitous feeling among people. On Jobacle, a career tip website, Andrew G. Rosen wrote articles called “12 Ways to Keep Yourself Happy at Work” and “7 Reasons to Say Good Morning to Your to Co-Workers.” In these articles, Rosen shares workplace practices that he considers to be “basic civility.”

Understanding & Correcting Incivility

In order to establish the type of culture and atmosphere we are trying to covey to our employees, it is important to understand what the most proper way to react and correct an incident of incivility is when it enters the workplace. Incivility at work can be as simple as failing to recognize an employee or team member for their noteworthy contributions, especially when you want to strengthen your organization’s values and leadership attitudes. Incivility can also be expressed through yelling, showing rudeness in neglecting an employee’s presence in the room, and making sarcastic comments even if they are meant to be a joke. Remember that it is possible for an employee to take such behavior out of context and feel personally attacked. These types of issues are still occurring in today’s workplace and becoming more frequent despite the fact that severe, pervasive, and inappropriate behaviors are an integral part of the concepts taught in workplace compliance training, especially in the Sexual Harassment sessions.

Incivility can affect your business’ bottom-line if the issue is not addressed properly. Being impolite or downright rude to colleagues at work is unacceptable behavior, even if it is not severe. Workplace bullying is easier to identify by a manager or co-worker, but incivility is more subtle and has even been described in some business performance news as a “gateway drug” to basic workplace harassment, bullying, or abusive conduct. Many studies show that employees who feel incivility exists in their work space will become less helpful, avoid offering help to another co-worker, stop talking to certain people at work, ignore when a specific person is in the room, and eventually may even leave the company without explanation. Respect and dignity between your employees is the best way to avoid these types of behaviors.

Workplace Training To Improve Civility

Training employees and supervisors in conflict resolution, diversity and inclusion awareness, leadership and development, basic manners, and professionalism in the workplace is a good start. Ignoring the situation and hoping it will go away or correct itself is not the best answer. Transparent communication and talking about reasoning behind the incivility is paramount. Another forward step in correcting this behavior would be to hold everyone accountable on a daily basis. Every once in a while, there will be days where employees do not feel like talking to each other. When this behavior occurs on a frequent basis, there is something wrong, and prompts an open conversation. This behavior undermines a teamwork approach and in some circumstances, it affects productivity. While it is often the result of unconscious bias or a miscommunication between the parties in the past, defining acceptable professional conduct should begin when the employee is hired. During the interviewing process, it is highly encouraged for employers to show respect, have good manners, and mention the company’s culture right from the start. Paying attention to low morale and incorporating civility in the workplace training into on-boarding and continuous education curriculum and policy handbooks can prevent incivility from becoming contagious to more employees.

Incivility is further defined as dealing with difficult employees and the outcome being a potentially toxic workplace. An example of inappropriate behavior can be seen with employees who are constantly checking their emails or messages on their cell phones. Another example would be employees that have problems communicating with their co-workers due to low self-esteem or other problems in their personal lives outside of the organization. Depending on the root cause of this behavior, such employees may need intervention to help them through the process of resolving issues that are brought to work unconsciously. Constructive criticism and performance reviews can also be utilized to document and correct the problem if it still persists.

Legislation Related To Civility in the Workplace

The American Nurses Association (ANA) has widespread issues with incivility, bullying, and actual violence in the workplace concerns. In California alone, a one-hour compliant Title 8, Section 3342 Training for Workplace Violence in Healthcare Training has been enacted through legislation and regulations. This requirement is an important part of employee safety training in the healthcare industry. Whether it is a result of criminal intent, client or customer assaults, personal relationship involvement, or worker to co-worker bullying, the ANA is making a conscious effort to stop these types of physical and psychological deviant behaviors from taking place on their watch. Their initiative starts with not just the nurses, but also with any healthcare worker or stakeholder in the organization.

Relationship-building in the workplace cultivates good behavior with employees and whom they come into contact with throughout their work day, whether it be via email communications or face-to-face. Civility explained by Katrina Plourde, Human Resources Manager at the Westerville Public Library, is considered to be “more than just good manners and etiquette, it includes the behavior that helps to preserve the norms for mutual respect at work.”

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