When we were children, our parents taught us manners.  They expected us to use them anytime we were at home, with visitors, and at school: in other words, everywhere.  If you are old enough, you will even remember getting a grade on your report card for “citizenship.”  The word “civility” comes from the old French and Latin term for “good citizen”, and is the glue that binds our society.  

Our workplace is a reflection of society at large.  Studies and polls indicate that Americans view incivility as a serious problem that is getting out of hand.  One study found that 60 per cent of employees believe that co-workers’ annoying behaviors negatively impact the workplace, and as a result, 40 per cent reported that they are looking for other jobs.  These reports show that disrespectful and uncivil behaviors drain productivity and negatively influence both an organization’s bottom line and the overall economy.  To make civility stick in the workplace, it must start at the top.  The leaders of the organization need to encourage it, and they should be role models, since those who work under them often tend to adopt the same management style as a company’s leaders.  Bullying by bosses is very common.  This kind of bullying often can be as bad as domestic violence, leaving victims with post-traumatic stress syndrome.  Practices and procedures that encourage civil behavior have to be inserted into every level of a company, for example:

  • Job descriptions;
  • Hiring practices;
  • Training policies;
  • Daily codes of conduct. 

Back in school – ages ago, there were the 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmatic.  Now, the 3 R’s in creating civility in your workplace are: Respect, Responsibility, and Restraint.  If most employees develop an awareness of respectful behaviors and communication skills, it can help them serve as role models, and these behaviors will spread in the workplace and beyond.  Here are some helpful tips: 

  • Create an inclusive work environment.  When you respect and recognize individual differences and qualities, your organization can realize it’s full potential.
  • It’s never too late to start.  Hone your listening skills.
  • Before acting, think about the impact of your words and actions on others.
  • Realize that people who regularly engage in kindness, generosity and gratitude live longer, healthier lives.
  • Know your triggers or “hot buttons.” When you understand why something frustrates you, you can manage reactions and respond in a more appropriate manner.
  • Adopt a positive and solution-driven approach in resolving conflicts.
  • Don’t assume!  Rely on facts only.  Gather relevant information, before acting on assumptions that can damage relationships.
  • Take responsibility for your actions and practice self-restraint and anger control.
  • Think about today’s difficult situations from the bigger picture and consider what they mean in the overall scheme of things.
  • Include others in your focus by considering their needs.
  • We all should influence each other, by being  bridge builders for civility and respect.  Show that you respect yourself, and demonstrate that same respect to others.
  • Talk to co-workers face to face and establish more personal relationships than through emails. 

Our legislators have a job to promote decency in their private lives and workplace, too.  They should be accountable for their behavior during the upcoming campaigns and when they are in office.  They work for us and should respect the wishes of their constituents.  After all, we are the ones who put them there, and they should set a good example for all of us. 

Personally, we can teach our children and grandchildren about interpersonal skills and relationships by having conversations with them rather than watching them text on their cell phones, use computers, or play games.   If we share our ideas with them about how to go about life by being thoughtful and showing respect, we will be leaving a wonderful legacy.  After all, life is real, not a game!


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