Organizations increasingly employ diverse individuals with differing languages, cultures, spiritual beliefs, political views, and other differences. Creating a work environment where very different people work well together requires civility and respect in navigating those differences. “Civility” may sound like an outdated, stuffy expectation in today’s world of road rage and cyberbullying, and it’s critically important in our workplaces. Regardless of where incivility occurs, civility and restraint are the underpinning of high-performing individuals, teams and organizations. In the workplace, civility can make the difference between a harassment claim and one where people skillfully navigate their differences.
On an individual level, civility starts with “consideration.” That’s not the same as “being considerate.” Instead, it means considering what might be the other person’s perspective or situation. If you feel that a co-worker is ignoring you, could it be that they’re simply preoccupied or stressed? We always emphasize the importance of assuming positive intent. We can’t know the other person’s intention, but we can assume they aren’t intentionally being rude, then frame a civil, respectful response instead of responding angrily.
At an organizational level, it’s important to expressly communicate that you expect civil, respectful behavior in all employee interactions. HR and senior management can help individuals and teams address differences by asking questions to better understand the other person’s/team’s views. Those skills – and the specific language to use in such situations – can be learned with targeted training and coaching.
Supervisors and managers should reinforce those expectations since they are most likely to hear about disagreements between employees. Supervisors can model effective, civil interactions and can coach others in navigating their differences. We also believe – and have seen consistently – the benefits of tackling uncivil, personal slights at the first sign and helping the parties navigate those differences.
With decades of experience in helping members build self-aware, emotionally-intelligent employees, we’re here to support you in creating more civil, respectful interactions in your organization. Let us know how we can help.