Workplace Civility and the Lack Thereof

file0001257808786Today’s word is “civility.”And today’s question is, “How civil are you, Friend?”

What is Civility?

“Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.”

So say Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, Founders of the Institute for Civility in Government. “Civility is about more than just politeness, although politeness is a necessary first step,” they say. “It is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody’s is ignored.”

  • disagreeing without disrespect
  • seeking common ground
  • listening past one’s preconceptions
  • staying present
  • everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody is ignored

To quote Oliver Twist, “Please, sir, may I have some more?”

Civility and Conflict Management

The ability to manage conflict is as important as it is in the because of a decided lack of civility in the workplace. Conflict management skills are what help mop up the mess caused by incivility.

Katrina Plourde, Human Resources Manager at the Westerville Public Library, articulated the distinction between civility and incivility as such:


Which brings us back to the question of the day: “How civil are YOU, Friend?”

Incivility is on the Rise

According to Rex W. Huppke (Chicago Tribune, 8/14/2016, section 2, page 3), “Recent studies show that the number of people experiencing incivility at work has doubled over the past two decades, an odd trend when you consider the increased focus many companies have placed on dealing with harassment and workplace bullying.” He goes on to discuss a recent paper by associate professor Russell Johnson at Michigan State University:

“Incivility, does not involve openly hostile behavior, threats, or sabotage. As such, incivility is more benign and does not warrant the same legal attention or formal sanctions as other forms of mistreatment. Yet, it is a relatively frequent low-intensity negative behavior that has a substantial impact on employees.”

• relatively frequent
• negative behavior
• has a substantial impact

Johnson’s view is that incivility both causes, and is caused by, mental fatigue, which makes us all more susceptible to becoming a ‘victim’ of incivility, and all-too-often transforms us from ‘victims’ of of incivility to ‘perpetrators’ of incivility. Furthermore, “because incivility reflects a mild form of mistreatment that is likely to go unpunished…and can easily denied and therefore excused, it occurs more frequently than other forms of mistreatment.”

• incivility both causes, and is caused by, mental fatigue
• we are all-too-often transformed from ‘victims’ of incivility into ‘perpetrators’ of it
• incivility often goes unpunished
• it occurs more frequently than other forms of mistreatment

In other words, Pogo fans, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

What to do about incivility?

Huppke suggests that since mental fatigue plays such a large role in the spread of incivility, it’s important to keep mentally fresh (and refreshed) by getting enough sleep and taking occasional breaks to clear your head and recharge. He also says that we could make a point of reminding ourselves (and others) – with a sign on your cubicle wall or a small strip of paper taped to your computer screen to “Be Civil.”

• keep mentally fresh
• get enough sleep
• take occasional breaks
• “Be Civil.”

Which brings us back, once more, to the question of the day: “How civil ARE you, Friend?”

Share this:

Under Construction or Under False Pretense

image source:

We’re all ‘works in progress’. And there’s no shame in admitting that. Personal (and professional) growth takes time, attention…and intention. You can’t just pretend and then say you’ve grown. It doesn’t work that way.

But we’re all busy. So what’s to be done when you’ve tried to shoehorn some self-development into the mix and found yourself running against some time constraints?

Other Priorities Will Always Exist

“It’d be so much easier if there wasn’t always some bigger priority to work on first,” he said.

“True,” I replied. “But that’s just the way it is.”

So how do we get around this ‘inconvenient’ truth? Irate customers, hot-hot projects, someone needing to be trained, someone else on vacation, that report that’s been due, an assignment the boss’s boss just gave you…the list is endless. So what CAN you do? What DO you do?

If you’re like most, you’ll do your job and if your personal development work has to take a back seat, so be it. You’ll get to it later. Soon. Hopefully.


The Challenge is the Challenge

The truth, though, is that you’ll likely NEVER have the time you’re hoping to have. It just doesn’t work that way. So if you really want to grow, you have to FIND, MAKE, and/or TAKE the time. And, fortunately, there are quite a few ‘places’ you can take it from – if you’re willing.

  • Take a closer look at your ‘wasted’ time – For some, it’s your laptop; for others, it’s your smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. Having to check the latest posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc. can be wildly time-consuming. Fun, no doubt, but wildly time-consuming. And don’t even get me started on, Netflix, Hulu, etc. No judgment; just observation. So I’m not saying that ALL of your time on these outlets is a waste. I’m just saying that, if you really wanted to, you could find plenty of time available to reclaim from your time ‘wasted’.
  • Take a closer look at your ‘discretionary’ time – Most jobs afford a meaningful amount of flexibility in HOW you do it. Ever hear of Parkinson’s Law? It states that ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’. This isn’t just some ‘work harder’ bromide – if you think it is, then read this. But if you have 17 things to do before catching that flight, you somehow are able to do them all – or at least all the really important ones. And can ably mop up. Now I’m not saying that you have TOTAL discretion in how you use your time at work. I’m just saying that, if you really wanted to, you could probably find plenty of time to reclaim from how you spend your ‘discretionary’ time.
  • Take a closer look at your ‘transitioning’ time – This relates to what you do between the things you do. Grabbing some coffee after a meeting, as example. Grabbing a cub before a meeting. Slow-rolling back into things after lunch. Packing up for the night, just a little bit early. Not using your ‘getting there’ (or getting back from there) time effectively, such as when you find yourself sharing an elevator with someone and NOT being ready to talk with them. How much time do you take after finishing the last thing before starting the next? Now I’m not saying you misuse ALL of your transition time. I’m just saying that, if you really wanted to, I’m confident that you could find some meaningful time available to reclaim, there, as well.
  • Take a closer look at your time ‘disruptions’ – When someone asks you for something ‘ASAP’ it typically means that they want it ‘sooner’ than possible. Which can be quite disruptive. But if it’s truly needed ASAP, there’s power and credibility to be derived in complying willingly. Surprisingly often, though, the initial request for ‘when’ is more about their convenience than any actual requirement. Therefore, there’s almost always room to negotiate. I remember a time when I was working in telecommunications when a customer said he needed 50 work orders completed overnight – that night! “If I can’t do them all, tonight, would you rather have me do none of them?” I asked. “Well,” the person said, “if you can do these specific 10 tonight and get the rest done by week’s end, I could work with that.” So could I. Another way to approach time negotiations is by asking this: “How will you be using this deliverable?” Inevitably, the other person will share with you their timeline, which almost always has some padding in it. Now I’m not saying  that you can entirely avoid time disruptions. I’m just saying that, if you really wanted to, you could probably do a better job of negotiating how much of a disruption something really needs to be.

When All Else Fails

Sometimes, notwithstanding all the above, you still need more time – or could certainly benefit from having it. In such cases, you have to decide just how important your self-growth priority (or any other priority) actually is. And how long you’re willing to subordinate yourself to the priorities of others.

Whatever you decide, don’t kid yourself about it being about you not having the time, though. Because if you REALLY wanted to, you know you’d FIND, MAKE, and/or TAKE the time – because that’s what you do every single day with OTHER people’s priorities.

What self-growth priorities deserve to be made more of a priority with YOU?



Share this: