Workplace Civility: What’s the Big Deal?

Hard stats are unavailable, but anecdotal evidence from MSEC members suggests lunch boxes are commonly pilfered of sandwiches, chips, apples, and candy bars. Seems harmless enough, even a bit funny.  Maybe it is the result of all the calorie-burning jogging, cycling, hiking, etc., in our fitness-crazed Rocky Mountain region? If someone is hungry enough to steal a co-workers food, they must be truly needy, right? What’s the big deal?

Well, it is a big deal. Lunch theft destroys morale. Employees who can’t trust co-workers to respect the privacy of their belongings are not going to be happy, productive employees. Violating trust is a major relationship killer. Instead of team spirit and positive engagement, victimized employees will likely harbor resentment and anger toward the whole organization. Stealing lunches may be the tip of the iceberg of uncivil behaviors that foster dysfunctional work relationships. Indeed, a recent NY Times article by a Georgetown University McDonough School of Business Professor describes various “toxic workplace” behaviors that dramatically impact employee health, productivity and ultimately bottom-line profits. Fostering civil workplace behavior makes good business sense!

Follow these basic steps to nurture civility in your workplace:

  • Hire Right: When interviewing, include questions about civil behaviors; listen attentively to responses and look for specific examples. When reference checking, ask pointed questions and listen carefully.
  • Define Expectations: Discuss your code of conduct on Day 1 of a new employee’s hire.
  • Model the Behavior: Leadership must set the tone and consistently model desired civil behaviors.
  • Discuss and Train: Don’t assume employees understand pat phrases like “Appropriate and Professional Behavior”. Instead, discuss common workplace issues and provide examples of acceptable behaviors.
  • Consequences: Clearly define consequences of uncivil behavior and hold offenders at all levels accountable.

If your workplace suffers from uncivil behaviors, give MSEC a call. We’re here to help our members thrive!