Keeping it civil

By: Judy Kneiszel

Publication: Employee Relations Management Today

Date Posted: 09/23/2021

Providingemployees with civility training

Research has shown that incivility is typically a precursor to harassment and/or workplace violence. That’s why, in addition to anti-harassment policies and training, some employers provide employees with civility training.

Civility training is not focused specifically on harassment prevention, but rather on creating a more respectful environment overall, which should lead to less conflict and fewer incidents of harassment in the workplace.

How can employers achieve and maintain civility in the workplace?

With a variety of backgrounds and belief systems, employees of all stripes come together at work to earn a living and make a difference by working toward a shared goal.

It’s natural to want to share opinions or even joke around with coworkers, but this can cause problems.

To help ensure employees can identify when others have crossed the line, employers can train workers to ask:

  • Would I want this person to say/do this to me, my child, my spouse, or my parent?
  • Would this person say/do this if other people (e.g., a supervisor, HR, a customer, a reporter) were present?
  • Would I want the public to see this person’s behavior?
  • Is this behavior distracting someone from doing a job to the best of that person’s abilities?
  • Is someone with less power involved? Will the person be too afraid to say the behavior is out of line?

Try conscious inclusion to increase civility

Suggest that employees focus on “conscious inclusion” for personal growth and organizational improvement. Share these ways to practice conscious inclusion:

Demonstrate empathy: Understand everyone faces challenges no matter a person’s background, religion, gender, or race. Accept people for the contributions each makes in the workplace.

Communicate authentically: Address issues directly. Speak clearly and stick to the facts. Don’t let anger or emotions cause individuals to say something the person doesn’t really mean.

Embrace differences: Imagine how boring life would be if people were copies of each other. Differences lead to discoveries and self-growth. Embracing differences can increase a person’s knowledge, understanding, and happiness.

Acknowledge privilege: A person can acknowledge any help or advantages that person may have had to get to where the individual is today. It’s helpful for workers to understand that not everyone may have had those same experiences. Chances are good someone a worker disagrees with has overcome adversity to be successful, and the person may have valuable insights to share.

Act courageously: Be the person who steps forward with acceptance. Others can learn from the example to build a foundation of fairness in the workplace.

Use positive examples

In contrast to typical anti-harassment training, civility training tends to give people positive examples of how to behave rather than highlighting the behaviors to avoid. The training typically includes a focus on interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, and effective supervisory techniques.

About the author
Judy Kneiszel - Human Resources Editor

Judy is an Associate Editor on the Human Resources Publishing Team and she specializes in issues such as recruiting and hiring, onboarding and training, employee communication and discipline, managing problems, team building, inclusion, employee retention, and labor relations

Expert Help Icon

Have a compliance question for Judy? The J. J. Keller Expert Help tool provides you direct access to Judy and other trusted experts to help answer your toughest compliance questions.