Most organizations take a highly complex and fragmented divide-and-conquer approach to behavioral issues. They have an initiative on sexual harassment, one on discrimination, others on scores of compliance topics, perhaps one on values. The list goes on.
Typically, these initiatives are developed by experts in a narrow specialty who come up with a long list of important ideas, laden with technical terms that have specific meaning to the experts who work with them daily but not to anyone else. As a consequence, employees get confronted by many standards, directives, policies, and training programs, each of which is trying to teach them a lot of rules, principles, and guidelines using different terms, voices, and perspectives.
The result of all this complexity is “regulatory fatigue” and a splintered approach to dealing with problems that, below the surface, are connected. People can’t remember all the details thrown at them. Leaders are blind to the full costs of poor behaviors because incidents and risks are divided into separate buckets in the budget—or, more likely, don’t appear at all on the balance sheet.
To simplify the task of dealing with unacceptable behavior, organizations should unite these fragmented issues and efforts under the umbrella of civility and civil treatment. That makes it easier to identify a few consistent messages that need to be communicated and reinforce.
The civility core of diverse issues
To be clear, I am not advocating that organizations abandon their compliance functions or their learning curricula addressing the multiple learning topics required by state, local, or federal regulations.
What I am arguing is that all of these traditional initiatives have embedded within them common behavioral principles and objectives about how people should treat one another. They all need to reinforce the key theme of civil treatment as a means of improving business rules, which includes a willingness to raise, listen to, and resolve issues (and, hence, minimize risk, which helps improve performance). And they are all linked to how values are embedded in an organization.