5 Examples of Effective Workplace Civility Exercises

“Be respectful to your colleagues.”

It may seem like a simple directive and one that adults should be able to figure out on their own. In reality, though, people have always had very different ideas about what kind of behavior is appropriate for the workplace.

That’s why generic platitudes like “in this workplace, we value respect” aren’t very helpful — even when the intentions behind them are good.

Many employers are finally starting to realize that they have to be deliberate about getting staff on the same page about what constitutes civility and respect. And a great way to begin that effort is with education and civility training for the entire workforce.

As the demand for this kind of training grows, dozens of companies are now rolling out training options to meet it. It can be difficult to know which program will work best for your office.

There’s not just one right way to effectively teach your employees about civility and legal expectations at work. Here are five effective options to choose from:

Organization-Wide, In-Person Civility Training

Perhaps the most common approach to civility training is to hire an expert trainer to come on site and train the entire workforce over the course of a day or two.


  • This kind of training is fairly simple to schedule. Managers have to plan a single training session far enough in advance that it won’t be inconvenient.
  • Training all employees at once can maximize the value of the investment in an expert-level, in-person trainer.
  • Fully immersing employees in course content can be beneficial, especially when you’re starting out. Longer sessions can give new students a chance to really dive deep into the material.
  • This approach gets everyone in the organization on the same page right away, as opposed to staggered dates.


  • In bigger offices, there will always be employees who have irreconcilable scheduling conflicts, or who end up missing the training due to sickness or personal emergencies. They’ll need an alternative way to catch up on the training material.
  • Getting all employees together can be expensive if your employees are spread out in various locations or are often traveling. It can also be tough to find a space that can affordably accommodate a large group.
  • Depending on your business model, having all operations creep to a standstill while the entirety of your workforce gets trained might not be a great option.
Bonus download: 4 Signs Your Civility Training is Too Passive

Smaller, In-Person Group Civility Training Sessions

If the “all-hands-on-deck” option is a little too logistically challenging for your organization, you could host multiple sessions, each led by an in-person expert.


  • This option gives employees a little more flexibility to choose a date or location that works for them.
  • Smaller groups allow each participant to get more one-on-one attention from the instructor.


  • The more training sessions you host, the more time is required for planning and logistics.
  • Keeping records of training and compliance can be a little trickier when employees are choosing from among several training sessions.
  • You’ll have to pay instructors for each session you host, and the costs can add up if you have a limited budget.

Virtual Instructor-Led Training

Virtual-instructor-led training (VILT) uses modern digital communication tools to create a remote but interactive training experience. Employees can participate in training in real-time from any location. Instructors interact with students through features such as live polls and chat windows.


  • VILT offers the ultimate scheduling flexibility for your employees. It’s especially appealing for employers that have a remote workforce spread across time zones or many frequent traveling employees.
  • VILT software makes it easy for administrators to keep track of which employees attended which training sessions.


  • Some advantages of in-person training are impossible to replicate, even with advanced video tools. Live instructors have more opportunities to “read the room,” and can practice best behaviors with employees face-to-face. (For more on the perks of live training, read our article: Is In-Person Training Really Worth the Effort?)
  • This method requires that employees are at least moderately familiar with computers and have access to high-speed internet.

Train the Trainer

Instead of hiring an expert trainer to come to your workplace as needed, you can arrange for one of your own employees to become the expert. Then, that trainer can train the rest of your staff on workplace civility issues at your convenience.


  • If you already employ full-time HR staff, training the trainer could be an affordable alternative to hiring third party trainers each year.
  • Dedicating a full-time employee to the job will ensure as much access to the material as your employees want or need.
  • An on-staff trainer will bring particularly relevant insights to the training due to their in-depth understanding of the organization’s needs and culture.


  • If no one on staff has an HR background, this won’t be a good fit.
  • Sometimes, getting the perspective of a total outsider can bring fresh insights.

E-Learning (and Microlearning)

On its own, video-only learning tends to become a passive exercise, one focused on getting the training over with. It’s often used to demonstrate an effort toward civility on the part of employers.

But paired with more dynamic educational methods and planning, e-learning can be very effective.

Don’t miss: 4 Signs Your Civility Training is Too Passive

One example is the use of electronic training material in a technique called “microlearning.” In this popular educational technique, lessons are condensed as much as possible and thoughtfully planned out so learners can digest them more easily and over longer periods of time.


  • Employees can watch the material at their convenience and learn at their own pace.
  • Research has shown that breaking down complex lessons into more digestible ones can increase the rate of retention over time.


  • Microlearning on its own isn’t ideal for teaching in-depth, and leaves little room for in-person interaction and practice that makes training the most effective

The Elements of Effective Civility Training

The bottom line is that civility training doesn’t require everyone in your organization to sit down in the conference room for a workplace civility training PowerPoint presentation.

The best choice of civility training will depend on things like how many employees you have, where your offices are located, and the limits of your training budget.

In general, though, your civility training will be effective as long as it has these three crucial ingredients:

  • It’s led by an expert who is fully up-to-date on the latest issues
  • It’s delivered in a way that encourages participants to stay active, interact, and practice
  • It’s enforced consistently over time, reviewed continuously, and backed up by the values and actions of organizational leaders

To be effective, workplace training must be enforced over time, reviewed continuously, and backed up by leadership.

Finally, if you’re looking for more information on how to get started with civility training, we hope you consider reaching out to us at ELI. We tailor our programs to each organization’s needs and budget, including options for VILT, e-learning, train the trainer, and on-site learning. Click here to learn more about us and request a quote.

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