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:

civility-incivility

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?”

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