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Civility at work in five points

A moment of silence please. Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, has sung her last note.

Unfortunately, more than ever, the echoes of the Diva’s interpretation of Otis Redding’s famous hymn, R-E-S-P-E-C-T is on the lips of modern-day employees, exasperated by the lack of civility in their workplace.

To help you identify incivility and restore civility in your workplace I answer these five popular questions.

What does incivility look like at work?

Incivility consists of innocuous words and gestures that are often expressed in the heat of the action. Incivility is:

  • omitting the politeness of the magic words;
  • constantly checking one’s phone during meetings;
  • stealing someone’s idea or taking credit for it;
  • rejecting blame,
  • a sigh or rolling of the eyes when she speaks;
  • sarcastic comments;
  • not sharing the necessary information;
  • regularly being late;
  • not cleaning up the mess made in the kitchen;
  • or, leaving the printer empty of paper.

All of these small inattentive gestures are uncivil, they lack courtesy and affect the collective harmony of work teams.

What are the consequences of incivility at work?

Long before becoming a diplomatic crisis on Twitter or of being perceived as bullying, the lack of civility at work is often subtle and insidious.

Usually impulsive and unpremeditated, in honour of one’s lack of time or of a feeling of superiority, these bad manners hinder, embarrass, frustrate, hurt and even diminish its’ victims of self-confidence.

Left unaddressed, these words and actions become contagious and often trigger vicious cycles that are expensive for businesses. The participants of my civility workshop are always shocked by the high costs of incivility in the workplace.

Eighty percent of employees admit to having lost time by being paralyzed, thinking of what to do or even taking time off to avoid the offender.

Who can restore civility at work?

Before jumping on your desk to sing along with Aretha ” All I’m askin’s for a little respect”, realize that YOU have power, the power of one.

I believe in the power of one. You have the power to create a civil workplace.

No, not to become the police of politeness by handing out etiquette “tickets”, but by being a model of good manners, words and actions, by respecting others, their values, their things and their time.

Like incivility, civility is contagious. You’ve often heard it “You cannot change others. The only changes you can make are in you.” Civility begins with you.

You have the power to inspire others to civility. Choose civility one interaction at a time. Manage your relationships with good intentions, actions and emotions. Do good and feel good.

How can civility at work be restored?

  • Be empathetic. Recognize that there are different ways of doing things. Observe others without judgment. Seek their potential motives. Filter your observations from these different perspectives.
  • Choose civility one day and one choice at a time, by being fully aware of the potential after effects of your words and actions.
  • Respond instead of reacting. A reaction is fast and instinctive. It is often triggered by personal biases. Calm and non-threatening, a response is thought out and considers its’ long-term effects.
  • Ask a trusted colleague what your little annoyances might be. Even the most caring of employees has blind spots.

In the face of incivility, what can be said?

To respect does not mean to tolerate, especially in the presence of uncivil behavior.

  • Do not point fingers.
  • Express your needs in a firm but calm voice, without judgment. That voice is sensitive and sensible.

“Let’s put our phones on silent so we can focus on our meeting’s objectives and time.”

” I am having trouble concentrating. I would really appreciate it if you guys could please move the conversation to the rest area.”

“To make sure that we work well together, I need you to stop talking to me that way.”

The next time you want to sing R-E-S-P-E-C-T, fast-forward on your play list to “I say a little prayer” and contribute to civility in your workplace.

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Civility at work in five points