There is an epidemic of incivility in the world today. You see it in wildly varying political opinions, cyber-bullying, crude, rude, and obnoxious behavior… it’s reaching crisis proportions. Perhaps now more than ever, it’s affecting the workplace, and this behavior creates significant risk for an organization. Combating incivility in the workplace is more important now than ever.
From training to culture change
Many companies utilize training programs as a way to build civility within their workforce. While this has a positive impact, training alone cannot truly solve the problem. Many training programs focus on explaining what employees should or should not do. Instead of highlighting rules, the goal should be to enhance the culture of the organization so that civility becomes engrained into the overall culture. Although it sounds abstract, it is absolutely possible, and necessary, to operationalize civility within your organization.
Safety culture in manufacturing
The manufacturing industry is an excellent example of how a sustained effort can change the culture in an organization. Safety is an enormous issue for manufacturing companies as a single oversight can cost a company millions of dollars in lost productivity, OSHA fines, lawsuits and even lives. There’s no room for error, and all employees understand the severity and the importance of complying with the safety standards. Thus, manufacturing companies put a tremendous amount of effort toward creating a culture that revolves around safety.
How? They talk about it continuously and weave it into every aspect of their jobs. They bring it up at meetings and at lunch. They have safety guidelines posted, and employees keep their eyes open to make sure their fellow workers are following them—for their safety and the safety of the company. It’s not confined to a single conversation or simply mentioned in passing. Safety is a topic they are intentional about discussing and it has become part of their normal, everyday language. The manufacturing industry made safety an essential part of its culture.
The importance of operationalizing civility
Like workplace safety, there is a clear business benefit to operationalizing civility within an organization. And, similar to the way safety is ingrained into the culture of manufacturing, a holistic approach is best for introducing civility into the workplace.
Organizations must not only tailor their training to the different levels of leadership and employees on what civil behavior looks like in the workplace, but they must also sustain the message with tools that allow it to be integrated into their daily activity. Essentially, training should not be a single event. It should be an ongoing experience that is supported with resources that employees can use to utilize the skills they’ve learned. The message itself must start at the top of the organization and filter down through all levels of the organization. Management should model civil behavior at all times and hold employees accountable, which is critical.
Civility can be a business driver
It is possible to change the culture of an organization and increase civility in the workplace. A company that recognizes the importance of civil behavior and the overall effect it has across all areas of business, can turn civility into a key business driver, and leverage a positive culture into better results.