Why Civility At Work Still Matters (Works Well With Others)

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Civility is in danger of disappearing in many areas of society and commerce. One survey suggests that most people believe incivility is at crisis levels.

Many of us associate civility with a level of politeness, like good manners or being courteous. But civility is also about how we disagree, dialogue about our differences, listen to each other, and value the opinions of others.

What factors have produced more incivility at work? Our 24-hour news cycle quickly inflames an issue and makes incivility seem worse than it is. Social media allows people to spread vile, nasty messages about political figures, athletes and other celebrities. It also encourages people to ramp up their rhetoric with those who might not share their point of view. Dialogue can be ended by simply muting or unfollowing someone, even a best friend.

There is a price to pay for incivility at work. Employees are less satisfied with their job, they miss more work days, they are less committed, productivity declines, and they may take more legal actions if the incivility includes harassment or other overt hostility. Customer service declines, especially when incivility is witnessed between employees. A mostly hidden cost of incivility is the time spent avoiding interactions with the offender.

Here are some tips for improving civility in the workplace.

  • Be part of the solution by practicing courteous behavior – a smile, saying “hello,” accepting consequences for poor choices or bad behavior, and not blaming others.
  • Meet deadlines, respond to emails and messages, be on time, and come prepared to meetings.
  • Put away electronic devices during one-to-one or team meetings.
  • Respect people’s privacy and time as if it were your own.
  • Freely share credit when your team achieves success and accept personal blame for failures.
  • Model good manners and etiquette by being professional at all times.
  • Encourage people to challenge your assumptions and ideas. Tolerate a wide variety of perspectives, especially with controversial issues or topics.
  • Think before you speak.
  • Notice your body language and avoid sending mixed messages.
  • View conflict as productive and necessary for achieving the best results. Recognize and control the stories you tell yourself in potential conflict situations.

Civility is a key contributor to how productive and fun a workplace can be. Leaders are the role models for respect and inclusiveness. Don’t become a Miss Manners at work but do encourage your team to set expectations for civility. Then be vigilant in rewarding good behavior and promptly addressing incivility when it occurs.

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Ken Byler is Principal and Founder of Higher Ground Consulting Group, LLC, a Souderton, Pennsylvania firm that has provided leadership training, coaching, and facilitation services since 2002. He is an Authorized Partner for Everything DiSC®, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™, and PXT Select™ all registered trademarks of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.