An annual poll conducted by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate KRC Research reported that 93% of Americans feel that “civility” in today’s society is problematic.
In our divisive and politically charged climate, this type of offensive, ill-mannered behavior is on the rise, and while not illegal, the hostile environment it creates leads to significant business and social costs.
In fact, a Harvard Business School study of more than 60,000 employees estimated the cost of workplace incivility runs into the millions.
What is Civility Training?
Incivility is characterized by a seemingly funny sarcastic comment, an inappropriate joke, or an insulting remark. It’s embarrassing a colleague during a meeting, condescendingly addressing another employee, or treating any person with disrespect.
Civility Training is a program through which employees learn how to identify uncivil behavior in the workplace, create, model, and enforce a new standard of behavior, and ultimately promote respect and dignity among their employees.
When the foundation of a corporate culture is deeply rooted in civility, it builds a more positive, inclusive, and productive climate.
What Civility Training should include?
An effective civility training program must tie civility in the workplace with improved operational results. The importance of the training must be effectively communicated at all levels, and it must be seen as a high priority for the organization.
Translated, it’s not only about professional conduct, but that each employee’s behavior ultimately affects the bottom line.
It’s critical that employees believe that leadership is committed to creating and enforcing civility in the workplace. One recommendation is for a senior leader to not only participate in the training session with employees but also communicate the importance of a civil environment and express their support during some opening remarks.
An effective training program should also be specific not only as to the exact behaviors that demonstrate respect but also those that do not. It must be clear about the topics and actions that are unacceptable and include consequences for overstepping those bounds.
Finally, a critical component of the training program is the reinforcement of key material on a regular basis. An annual training session will not demonstrate a strong commitment to employees like regularly scheduled events throughout the year will. Microlearning can also be a very effective method of reinforcement.
How is Civility Training delivered?
Training programs can be deployed in a variety of different ways, but some may be more effective than others. The primary objective is to make the material relevant and engaging.
Live instruction is typically the most effective means of training. When employee training is delivered in-person by an expert trainer, that trainer can answer employees’ questions and give more in-depth insight into the material as necessary. That kind of depth is difficult to achieve when training is more passive and one-sided.
Virtual-led instruction is another popular option that might be more convenient for companies with employees in different time zones or across the country in multiple locations.
With the convenience of a high quality, internet-based, video conferencing platform, they can still provide the interactivity, customization, and relevance of a live instructor experience.
There’s also video-based training. While not as powerful as a live instructor training, it does have its advantages. It’s likely the least expensive and most convenient option and allows for a wider distribution of the civility training.
Benefits of Civility Training
The benefits of Civility Training are numerous and far-reaching.
You may think that the objective is to reduce the number of harassment and discrimination complaints or to limit a company’s liability in the event of a lawsuit. That is, in fact, true, but there are many more benefits a company can expect.
Civility in the workplace will boost morale and teamwork, enhance employee performance and satisfaction, reduce employee turnover and even the number of sick days.
A more positive environment will improve communication and interaction, allow for more innovation, and reduce stress. At the end of the day, all of these factors will ultimately impact the company’s bottom line.
What are the risks of Civility Training?
While the business case for civility training is clear, some instances of heated debate robust conversations can be considered protected speech.
Under the protection of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees cannot be prohibited from ever speaking negatively about the company, their working conditions or other employment aspects. Common examples are union organizing, wages, or benefits.
With that said, it’s important not to infringe on an employee’s right to concerted activities. Avoid making policies that are too broad or general by being specific about behaviors that are acceptable or unacceptable.
Civility in the workplace is an important topic and properly designing and executing your training is critical in preventing bad behavior and building culture.