After The Storm | Creating a Culture of Workplace Respect and Civility

Article Contributed by Allison Ebner

“Incivility is contagious. It’s a bug, it’s a virus and we can catch it anywhere—not only at work, but at home, online or in our community. “It affects our emotions, motivations, performance and how we treat others.” Dr. Christine Porath

Workplace incivility is on the rise. It can be defined as deviant workplace behavior of low intensity that can include such behaviors as being rude, discourteous, impolite, or violating workplace norms of behavior. The key here is low intensity. We’re not describing yelling or screaming matches, but rather subtle incidents that involve disrespect or rudeness and includes a lot of different behaviors, from mocking or belittling someone, to excluding them, to texting while someone’s talking to you at meetings, to telling offensive jokes. Dr. Christine Porath, a professor of management at Georgetown University and the author of Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace, found that 98% of the workers she surveyed over the past 20 years have experienced rude behavior and 99% have witnessed it. And it’s only gotten worse over the past few years. The cost of incivility is high, according to Porath. Instead of focusing on work, those who experience the behavior are far less motivated and are worried about future incidents. A few even leave their jobs. Sadly, employers are not aware of these behaviors because employees don’t report it. Some companies estimate that negative behavior costs millions of dollars in lost productivity.

As we move forward into a new frontier of corporate culture, returning to a place of basic civility and respect must be on the top of the ‘to do’ list for every HR professional and member of senior leadership. So what are the things we can being doing now in our organizations to hit the ‘reset’ button and be sure we are creating safe, thriving workplaces that drive innovation, collaboration and success? Let’s dive in!

  • Define civility and expectations | Consider creating a code of civility and making it part of the fabric of your organization, from your handbook to your mission and values statements. Clearly lay out the expectations of this code, and include them in your communications with your teams. Be sure that there are repercussions for violating your policies so that you set an example for the behaviors that are not acceptable from anyone – no matter their position – in your organization.
  • Give your employees the tools to be successful | Believe it or not, not everyone knows how to be civil and respect boundaries. Make sure you’re providing them with examples of poor behavior and enforcing the expectations that you defined above. Create opportunities to reinforce these messages and offer training in key areas such as harassment prevention, successful communication strategies and emotional intelligence.
  • Coach employees for civility and model the behavior | When coaching (and managing) employees, focus on helping them learn to listen fully, give and receive feedback, work across differences, and deal with difficult people. You might also coach them on negotiation, stress management, crucial conversations, and mindfulness. Don’t just impart information. A coach/manager who reviews fundamental concepts and expectations must also be ready to hold employees accountable.

Civility in the workplace is the platform on which company cultures are built. When we look beyond civility and basic human kindness, the next layer on the cake is creating a respectful and inclusive culture.

According to OC Tanner’s 2021 Culture Trends Report, 57% of organizations anticipate major changes to their culture as a result of the pandemic. They point out that culture is often built on shared experiences and informal interactions at work, but how do you maintain culture when so many of us are not physically together? Start by improving the six most important elements of workplace culture: purpose, leadership, appreciation, wellbeing, opportunity, and success. They also suggest that you reimagine inclusion. Move beyond just the recruiting process and single category D&I initiatives. Build inclusion into all elements of the everyday employee experience. Identify areas of exclusion, bias, and micro aggressions and address them.

Enable and train managers to create inclusive cultures, since they directly affect employee interactions and everyday experiences. See employees as individual people with individual needs and work to create an environment where all employees are free to be their authentic selves. Above all, provide opportunities for human connection as much as possible, using technology when possible to facilitate time for teambuilding and socialization.

The team here at EANE is committed to helping our members achieve respectful and highly functioning workplaces, where diversity and inclusion are part of the fabric woven into your overall culture. We offer a free consultation where a member of our senior leadership team works with you to offer suggestions and guidance on best practices for building a culture of respect and inclusion. In addition, we offer many different training programs that provide your leadership team, managers and individual employees with the tools they need to foster an environment free from harassment, bullying and micro aggressions. Finally, our expert team of coaching professionals are here to help you create transformational leaders through 1:1 sessions that will empower and educate your managers and leadership teams.