Civility in the Workplace by Dr. P. M. Forni
Woodbury Public Library, April 22, 2009
The quality of our lives depends upon the quality of our relationships, which depend on the quality of our relational skills. These depend on codes of civility and good manners.
Civility depends on benevolent awareness of others; applying restraint, respect, and consideration; caring about others and treating them well even if we don’t know them and may never interact with them. Example: wiping the sink in an airplane bathroom for the benefit of its next user.
Conversely, rudeness weakens social bonds and social support, damages self-esteem, increases stress, harms relationships, poisons the workplace, and can escalate to violence. Its ripple effect makes it difficult for others to think, reason, and treat others well.
Rudeness stats: 90% experience it, 50% lose work time worrying, and 12% leave the job. Over 50% of the American workforce experiences high stress; 35% rank “people issues” as worse than workload. Cost: $300 billion/year (health care, missed work, etc.).
Effective leaders build consensus; possess vision and integrity; they communicate temperately and resolutely. They gather widely in team formation, accept input from all members, share credit fairly, turn to all members including those perceived to be “uninteresting”, welcome new colleagues.
Defenses against toxic stress include getting to know co-workers, becoming more inclusive, not burdening co-workers with insecure hostility, being aware that we don’t have to constantly prove our worth.
For best performance, evaluate whether an action is ethically right, or simply self serving; consider consequences on others; note whether others prefer our absence to our presence; imagine a confrontation with another as the source for a training video.
Responding to rudeness: SIR Sequence:
Inform other(s) of impact of his/their actions
Request the behavior not happen again.
Civility improves social bonds, relationships, stress reduction, work quality, and job satisfaction.
Steps to take: assess civility level and commit to improvement.
Choosing civility: listen and pay attention; acknowledge others (greet, respond, etc.), include others; speak kindly; accept and give praise; acknowledge other’s contributions and achievements; don’t claim undeserved credit; respect others’ time and space; apologize promptly and sincerely; assert without being aggressive; criticize constructively, not destructively; accept blame, responsibility.
SPPL owns Dr. Forni’s Choosing Civility: the Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct and The Civility Solution: What To Do When People Are Rude. His website is http://krieger.jhu.edu/civility