Four Reasons why Civility in the Workplace is a Must

When I was little, my parents made it their business to instill in me the importance of minding my manners.  In fact, any attempts on my part to behave in any way that was deemed less than civil, resulted in my having to make amends without passing go or collecting my weekly allowance.  To them, civility, good manners and consideration for others were pretty important components of a successful life.  Experience has proven them to be right, at least for me.

Some may believe that civility is a minor consideration in the workplace, especially now when we are pressured by time, having to do more with less and plagued by looming deadlines and demands.   Who has time to be polite?  Who has time to say please or thank you? And, who has time to think about how our behaviour is affecting those around us as long as we’re getting the job done?

It is my contention, though, that civility has just about everything to do with creating workplaces in which people can do their best work and businesses can thrive.

Leaders who operate from a platform of good manners and civility know that:

Everyone likes to feel acknowledged and important

I started my work life in the mailroom of a bank.  My job was to open mail and deliver it to its intended recipients in a department of approximately three hundred people.  Some of the department managers received their mail with good grace, responding with a well-placed thank you and a smile.  When this happened, I actually felt like I belonged, that I was doing something that had value.  It was a small gesture but always with a big result and a willingness on my part to do more for those managers who had taken the time to acknowledge my existence despite my lowly placement on the hierarchical ladder.

Successful collaboration is not possible without it.

Collaboration is a key word in today’s workplace.  When we work together to achieve a common, mutually beneficial goal, it is often the case that impatience will raise its’ ugly head and start goading us into saying things we might not otherwise entertain.  It is at these times when a good dose of civility is required.  Rude and self-indulgent remarks simply get in the way of achieving a satisfactory outcome.  In this context, I like what Wikipedia has to say about civility.  “Civility gives us the means to disagree without being disagreeable” That kind of says it all doesn’t it?

How they treat their employees will reflect, for good or ill, outside the organization

This just makes good sense.  Those who work in an atmosphere where good manners are the norm will, for the most part respond to their customers and others, in kind.  There’s nothing complicated about that.  And, for some reason it is my guess that customers are more willing to part with their money if they feel they are being treated with respect.  Go figure.

Civility is key to building relationships and reputations through Social Media

Today, workplaces extend beyond our walls and borders through technology.  Every day, we send e-mails, text messages and tweets to people, some of whom we have never met face-to-face.  To me, civility is an important part of communicating with others over the Internet.   After all, when we say something on e-mail, facebook or Twitter it gets captured everywhere.  We can’t take it back and it shapes the image we create of ourselves which can either reflect who we really are or cast a shadow over us that will be difficult to overcome

So, if I have any advice to give it would be this.  Mind your Ps and Qs.  The world is watching.

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13 Comments

Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Employee engagement, Information Age, Leadership Values

13 responses to “Four Reasons why Civility in the Workplace is a Must

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Four Reasons why Civility in the Workplace is a Must « You’re Not the Boss of Me -- Topsy.com

  2. Great post, Gwyn. To me, civility is one of those “common sense” things — like saying “thank you” and expressing appreciation. Unfortunately, there seems to be quite a contingent born without the common sense gene. To these, I think we continually work to show them the value of civility and appreciation — once they see how it can impact their bottom line, perhaps they’ll be willing to change their ways.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Derek,

      I’m thinking that things like civility become common sense to those of us who have it drummed into us at an early age. But to your point, there is always hope that those who don’t consider good manners a priority will see its value in other ways, given good role models.

      Thank you for coming by and for your thoughtful comment.

  3. Gwyn Teatro

    Thanks for the reference to your post, Derek. The statement that sticks our for me is when you say,
    “people need to be thanked so that they know what they’re doing is valuable”.
    That’s an aspect of saying “Thank you” that we often don’t consider.

  4. Gwyn,
    I love your insightful posts. I read an article in today’s NY Times today about Governor-elect Cuomo’s well-known history of incivility; especially with staff members and employees.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/08/nyregion/08cuomo.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

    Will his nasty disposition, and lack of civility impact his ability to lead and govern?; and make some headway with the old boys network in Albany?

    Looking forward to a dose of your wisdom. What would you advise our next Governor?

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Larry!

      So nice to see you here again! I love the way you push my thinking button.
      I read the article you so kindly attached about Governor-elect Cuomo and have been thinking about your question.

      I will not pretend to know much about your political system but there are a couple of things I know for sure:

      One is, that your next Governor will not likely seek advice from *anyone* until he finds that his current method of management fails him…and perhaps not even then.

      Two is, that the wider our span of authority gets, the more we need the support, cooperation, ideas and good will of others to be successful. And, as you know, to engage others requires us to conduct ourselves with good grace.

      I’m assuming that as Governor, Mr Cuomo’s province will be expanded beyond his current experience. As such, my hunch is that he may encounter some unnecessary challenge should he continue to play the intimidation card.

      On the positive side, he seems to be an extremely focused person, a pace setter. As such his expectations for excellent results will no doubt continue.

      Perhaps the question is, if the working environment is not conducive to civility, collaboration and adaptability, how long will it be before the cost of those results exceeds their value?

      Anyone else want to weigh in here?

      Thanks for coming by Larry!

  5. Leslie Robinson

    “Civility is not a sign of weakness.” I love that, and wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I see *incivility* as coming from a place of weakness. It certainly doesn’t command respect!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Leslie,

      I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for adding your voice to the discussion. It’s always nice to get your perspective on things.

  6. Hi Gwyn, Showing respect is a great way to open the way for ideas to bubble up in an organization. I like your reminder:
    “Rude and self-indulgent remarks simply get in the way of achieving a satisfactory outcome. ”
    Politeness ensures that you take the time to consider what is being said – and gets you past knee jerk rejections that so often get in the way of discovery and innovation.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Fred, It’s nice to see you here again!

      Yes, it’s easy to allow our first “knee-jerk” reactions to take the lead. At these times the “civility training” we received, (probably from our parents) comes in handy.

      Thank you for your comment and for coming by.

  7. Really educational post. Excellent.

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