Workplace Respect and Civility

Employers who ignore, tolerate or even condone uncivil workplace behaviors do so at their own expense. A Georgetown University McDonough School of Business study indicates “toxic workplace” behaviors negatively impact employee health, productivity and ultimately bottom-line profits; customers who notice these problems are likely to react by taking their business elsewhere.

Incivility can sneak into an organization in surprising ways. Perhaps it is a star employee who is allowed to misbehave due to their exceptional skills, and out of fear that if confronted they will leave for a competitor. This scenario clearly puts the employer in a difficult position; however, allowing such behavior likely takes too narrow a view of the overall impact on the organization. Workplace success is a team effort- and even one star performer cannot do it all alone.

Even workplaces on the cutting edge of innovation struggle with this issue. Google recently unveiled a new Workplace Civility policy in response to internal strife over employee workplace behaviors that turned ugly and was hurting employee morale and their reputation as an “employer of choice”. Put simply, fostering civil workplace behaviors takes effort and makes good business sense!

Here’s how HR can lead the effort to nurture a workplace culture of civility:

  • Hire Right: When interviewing, include questions about civil behaviors; listen attentively to responses and look for specific examples. When reference checking, ask pointed questions about difficult situations and problem solving; listen carefully for evidence of respectful and civil behavior.
  • Define Expectations: Discuss with each new hire and reinforce with current employees on a regular basis.
  • Model Behavior: Leadership must set the tone and consistently model desired civil behaviors. Respect and civility starts at the top, and permeates the culture.
  • Discuss and Train: Don’t assume employees understand common policy language like “Appropriate and Professional Behavior”. Instead, discuss common workplace issues, provide examples of acceptable behaviors and continually train all employees on organizational expectations.
  • Consequences: Clearly define consequences of uncivil behavior and hold offenders at all levels accountable. Including star performers and Leaders.
  • Confront: Employees who choose to not adhere to organization expectations must be confronted immediately, consistently and held accountable. Help them leave the organization if they choose to not adjust their behaviors.
  • Communications: In all forms, respect and civility must be communicated, including: body language, written messages, phone conversations, emails and texts, processes, etc.

Employers Council offers numerous interventions to nurture productive behaviors in the workplace, including: coaching, classes, consulting, and employee surveys. Contact us today if you need help tackling uncivil behaviors in your workplace.