Codified Practices Can Help Avoid Workplace “Civil” War

When civility in general society begins to take a backseat to reason, respect and open discourse, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the workplace also reflects this disruptive trend. One would think civility would be commonplace, especially with respect to the “golden rule” which suggests treating all others the way you wish to be treated. That said, five minutes of news coverage or a couple of clicks on social media platforms will quickly dispel the notion that acting in a civil manner is commonplace and the standard by which humans interact with one another.

While society needs to address the more macro issue of civility in general, employers need to create their own bastion of civility, inclusion and respect to ensure their workplace is not exacerbating or following the negative behaviour we see permeating many aspects of daily life. Employers have control in shaping behaviour and discourse in the workplace since they set the standard and apply the rules. Shaping behaviour at the societal level is a much heavier lift.

Here are ten practices for developing employee awareness of respectful behaviour and the related required skills:

  1. Before acting, consider the impact of your words and actions on others.
  2. Create an inclusive work environment. Only by recognizing and respecting individual differences and qualities can your organization fully realize its potential.
  3. Self-monitor the respect that you display in all areas of your communications, including verbal, body language, and listening.
  4. Understand your triggers or “hot buttons.” Knowing what makes you angry and frustrated enables you to manage your reactions and respond in a more appropriate manner.
  5. Take responsibility for your actions and practice self-restraint and anger management skills in responding to potential conflicts.
  6. Adopt a positive and solution-driven approach in resolving conflicts.
  7. Rely on facts rather than assumptions. Gather relevant facts, especially before acting on assumptions that can damage relationships.
  8. Include others in your focus by considering their needs and avoiding the perception that you view yourself as the “centre of the universe”.
  9. View today’s difficult situations from a broader (big picture) and more realistic perspective by considering what they mean in the overall scheme of things.
  10. “Each one influence one” by becoming a bridge builder and role model for civility and respect. Act in a manner whereby you respect yourself, demonstrate respect for others, and take advantage of every opportunity to be proactive in promoting civility and respect in your workplace.

(SOURCE: Barbara Richman of HR Mpact)

While these are all good and relevant practices to incorporate in your work life (and private life), there also needs to be a commitment from the employer that a certain level of civility and personal responsibility is standardized in training materials, throughout employee handbooks and at staff meetings. To ensure the “standard for civility” in your workplace is adopted and embraced, there needs to be a firm and visible commitment from management to practice what they preach.

In 2017, Tourism HR Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Civility Experts to formalize a working relationship and mutual goals towards the development of international competency standards for Civility Practitioners. Under the agreement, both parties will seek funding or third-party sponsorship to move the initiative forward. Tourism HR Canada will include civility standards and practices in updates to occupational and competency standards as well as any training materials developed under the Emerit Tourism Training brand. Planned updates already include increased focus on cultural competencies, and the inclusion of civility practices will add greatly to these enhancements.

 Workplaces that allow uncivil behaviour to go unchecked will almost always be impacted negatively as they are likely not meeting the expectations of customers and are also enabling an atmosphere that contributes to employee illnesses, anxiety, depression and ultimately absenteeism. At a time when tourism employers are desperate to attract more people to work and build a career in the sector, the need to have a welcoming and inclusive workplace has never been more important.

Stay tuned for future developments and projects related to civil behaviour in the workplace.