Civility and positive behaviors in the workplace produce feelings of respect, dignity, and trust. The impact of any rude behavior in the workplace is significant. In an article for Forbes, S. Chris Edmond writes, “In 2016, 62% of employees were treated rudely at work at least once a month, according to a global, annual poll on workplace incivility. Since the poll’s launch in 1998, rude behavior has increased at an increasing rate — which means that every year, chances go up that your leaders and employees are being dismissive, demeaning, and discounting to one another.”
• 78% of people who experience uncivil behavior from their colleagues become less committed to the organization;
• 66% suffer decline in overall performance;
• 47% deliberately spend less time at work;
• 25% take their frustrations out on customers.
So, how can you diminish incivility and make your work environment purposeful, positive, and productive?
Here are four proven steps to building workplace civility:
Step 1: Set a new standard.
“Most people value civility. They want to treat one another how they themselves want to be treated. But sometimes, things get in the way. External pressure — the pressure to produceresults no matter what — can act like a bug in the operating system. Otherwise, civil people can “malfunction,” behaving in ways they never would otherwise; treating one another in ways that are dismissing, discounting, and demeaning.”
“Rare occurrences of incivility can be absorbed by healthy relationships in a healthy culture. People don’t expect perfection from one another in order to work together effectively. But when rudeness becomes the norm, an accepted part of your workplace daily, you’ve got a problem. When incivility is a core driver of your organization, as you saw in the metrics above, the direction you’re going is down. Your workplace is a perfect behavioral system, producing exactly the level of civility you cultivate.”
“Set a new standard by making civility as important as results. Re-align people along a value they already hold dear and want to bring forth. Give people permission to focus on behaving in ways they already know are conducive to a productive working environment. Every effective leader knows you get farther faster working with people’s core values, instead of against them.”
Step 2: Model the standard.
“Of course, setting a new standard is a useless activity if you, as the leader, don’t model it. And, if you’re like every other human on the planet who’s managed other people, you’ve got some work to do here. Over the years, you’ve picked up at least one or two uncivil habits. Now is your chance to set those habits down and evolve into a more compassionate, values-based leader.”
“To unlearn your own uncivil behaviors, you’ll need to take a close look at how you respond when you’re under stress. Specifically, you’ll need to assess the ways you’re wired to respond, as well as the habits you’ve acquired over time ‘in the trenches’ of leadership.”
“For example, I recently worked with a leader who naturally handled high-pressure moments quite well. He remained calm. He didn’t shout at people. He marshaled his team’s efforts to solve problems fluidly and effectively. He was simply ‘”wired” to remain civil in situations most people would consider extremely stressful.”
“Ironically, however, this same leader was like a bear in a cage when things were going well. He’d pace around the building, curt and impatient, looking for something (anything) wrong on which to focus. As he and I worked together, he realized that he’d learned these uncivil habits from his previous boss, who was also, as he called himself, a “perpetual burr under the saddle.” He successfully unlearned these behaviors and adopted ways of interacting that fostered a culture of civility and positivity, regardless of the challenges (or lack thereof) at hand.”
“Take a look at your own wired and learned behaviors. Observe yourself from the outside. Are your habits modeling civility…or not?”
Step 3: Coach the standard.
“You’ve publicly set the new civility standard in your organization using an organizational constitution. And, you’ve done your “inner work” to pinpoint your own uncivil habits, shift them, and model the new standard yourself. What next?”
“You’re now ready to leverage the first two steps to coach key players within your sphere of influence to become civility champions. The purpose of this coaching is to create a pocket of excellence: a “gold standard” of civility that will serve as a reference point throughout your workplace.”
“Remember, coaching is simply a conversation between two people with the goals to connect, highlight what’s going well, and identify areas of opportunity. The key word in that sentence? Connect. Civility is based on genuine, human-to-human connection. You don’t need to be a seasoned coach to support other people to feel seen, understood, valued, and supported.”
Step 4: Embed accountability to the standard.
“The final step is to consider whether your organization’s policies and programs reward civility, or inadvertently punish it.”
“Ask yourself, are people working within a system that says civility is important, but when it comes to bonuses, promotions, and discipline, the system clearly rewards results over respectful behavior?”
“You can’t afford for your organizational values to be considered merely lip service. Even if it’s just within your sphere of influence, you can take steps to eliminate rudeness and celebrate civility within your team’s policies and programs.”
“And, you can make decisions now that will embed civility into your workplace in the future.”