BARKS from the Guild March 2018

Page 56

business

An Urgent Need for a Return to Civility

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Niki Tudge discusses the seemingly lost art of disagreeing without being disagreeable and

the importance of practicing civil behavior

s business owners, one of our fundamental responsibilities to our clients, our employees and our stakeholders is to ensure that we provide a workplace where civility is not only a priority, but a deep-rooted, daily cultural norm. Manners, respect, consideration, tolerance and equality are all characteristics and indicators of a healthy and progressive organizational culture. While the mere suggestion of implementing a workplace training program on manners may draw sneers and seem like overkill, the reality is that rudeness is a workplace epidemic that can cost small businesses millions each year in lost revenue, high staff turnover and poor public relations. One of the growing culprits here is the gains that have been made in both knowledge advancement and technology. Forni (2003) speaks to more flattened organizations where relationships are now less formal and more casual. This resulting lack of structure can create work environments with fewer social norms and a loss of civil behavior. As such, people may sometimes “lose” some of their basic social values, and this can have a detrimental impact on our own businesses, private lives and family infrastructure. For example, employers may rudely intrude on an employee’s personal workspace, gossiping coworkers may become the norm, and quality customer care can get lost through keyboard warrior relationships and the virtual realms in which we often find ourselves operating. Much of this may lead to a work environment that is no longer conducive to productive relationships or highly functioning workplace teams. As business owners, employers and/or workplace colleagues, we need to understand how to effectively practice civil behavior and implement boundaries. This applies across the board to our managers, our coworkers and our subordinates. This will help us prevent uncivil workplace cultures where harassment, intimidation and unhealthy stressors are fodder for individual behaviors that can negatively impact organizational structure.

“Civility costs nothing and buys everything.” - Mary Wortley Montagu

When we fail to smile at a colleague or smirk at another person’s suggestion, gather in small clans or cliques, or ostracize others through exclusionary practices, these seemingly innocuous behaviors can be very costly to employee morale, team-building efforts and employer trust. There are few companies that have truly prospered when these types of behaviors have gone unchecked in the workplace. It is important, then, for each of us to rekindle a civil disposition and it should become imperative to practice this within our own work organizations, while our behavior in society in general should be governed by these very same principles. I dare say we have all experienced passive-aggressive, rude, if not hostile behavior from others at some time in our working lives. Others amongst us may fall victim to this in our private lives. Antoci, Delfino, Paglieri, Panebianco and Sabatini (2016) describe a research project conducted by the Pew Research Center that documented the growth in incivility across social networking sites. Their findings included: 56

BARKS from the Guild/March 2018

© Can Stock Photo/dizanna

Recognizing who you are and how your behavior impacts others is a major part of both civility and emotional intelligence

• That 73 percent of online adults have seen someone being harassed. • 40 percent of online adults have personally experienced harassment. • 49 percent of online adults have seen other users behaving cruelly. • 60 percent of online adults have witnessed someone being called offensive names. • 53 percent of online adults had seen efforts to intentionally embarrass someone. In the Baltimore Workplace Civility Study (Forni et al., 2003), a survey conducted online, adults were questioned about workplace bullying to determine the frequency. Bullying was defined as the deliberate, repeated, hurtful verbal mistreatment of a person (target) by a cruel perpetrator (bully). I was particularly surprised by the survey findings initially, yet on reflection these results made sense to me given my own experiences with uncivil and overly aggressive and hostile women. The findings revealed that women bully as frequently as men (there was a 50 percent split). Within that, 84 percent of the time women tend to target other women, whereas men target women 69 percent of the time.

What is Civility?

Workplace civility can be defined as “behaviors that help to preserve the norms for mutual respect in the workplace; civility reflects concern for others.” (Andersson & Pearson, 1999). We all operate within our own subcultures, so this definition refers to the attitudes and patterns of behavior across a specific group. Social norms are the attitudes and behaviors the group deems to be acceptable, typical or average. Civility represents these norms and the rules


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