There are plenty of bad workplace behaviors that aren’t classified as discrimination, but that have the same bad effects on business. A few examples of these uncivil behaviors are disruptive behavior (yelling, swearing, outbursts, etc.), bullying and sexual harassment.
These behaviors all have similar consequences: employee turnover, poor morale resulting in lost productivity, teams that do not work well together, and so on.
However, they also have similar solutions. The behavior-focused approach to culture change we described in previous chapters works for all of these problems, not just the discriminatory ones.
Companies should recognize these similarities and consolidate their workplace compliance initiatives into one simple, consistent push toward their cultural values.
Avoiding “Regulatory Fatigue”
Companies have made ethics, compliance, and daily behavioral standards too complex. And that complexity has contributed to poor behavior in the workplace.
Most organizations take a highly 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.
Each of these guidelines and initiatives is often developed with the help of specialists and legal experts. The result is a collection of guidelines, policies, and standards that use inconsistent voices and terminology. This leads to what we call “regulatory fatigue,” as employees are overwhelmed with the expectations on their behavior.
This splintered approach also makes it difficult to track the real costs and risks associated with bad behavior at work, because each initiative has its own budget and metrics.
Simplify Your Message and Approach
More than one approach to your workplace ethical issues is one too many. Behavioral directives need to be clear, simple, and written in language that’s easy for anyone to understand (not just a legal expert).
Simplifying your message to identify a few consistent guidelines does not mean abandoning any certain type of compliance. It also does not mean neglecting to learn how regulations are addressed by various levels of government and various entities.
It simply means recognizing that all of these initiatives have similar behavioral principles at their heart. They all deal with the best ways that people should treat each other as they work together. They all encourage a willingness to speak up and to listen when issues arise. They all encourage companies to really define and prioritize their values.
Becoming a Civil Treatment Workplace®
At ELI, we use the term “civility” and “civil treatment” as the umbrella for all of these initiatives.
We think it’s time that companies make the effort to define and measure their cultural goals just like they do their financial goals, and take a comprehensive approach toward meeting them.
Talent is any company’s biggest investment. You should be maximizing the value of that investment by creating a culture that will help your employees thrive. In workplaces that value civility, employees can do their best work because they’re not held back or put in the wrong role due to bias, discrimination, favoritism, or any other negative workplace behavior.
We define a Civil Treatment Workplace as one in which all members of the organization, from the highest level of leadership to the newly-hired employees, know and act in line with organizational values and expectations. In Civil Treatment Workplaces, values are translated into day-to-day behaviors of professionalism, respect, collaboration, and inclusion.
These workplaces exist all over the world, and yours can be one of them.