How Can You Increase Workplace Civility?

Anne W. Chapman - Blalock Walters Attorney

Anne W. Chapman Esq., Labor & Employment Law

True or not, a common perception is that our society is one that is becoming less respectful and less courteous. This perception is especially true in the workplace where study after study cites examples of rude behavior in the workplace and the accompanying worker dissatisfaction. In fact, legislation has even been proposed to combat perceived “bullying” in the workplace.

The simple fact is that it is in everyone’s best interest for employees to feel respected in the workplace. Among other benefits, happier employees improve employee productivity and retention. Below is a list of some of the ways to facilitate civility in the workplace:

  • Hiring: While it may be tempting to rush through the hiring process, employers should take their time to evaluate if the candidate is a good fit for the organization and interacts with others in a respectful manner.
  • Monitoring: Often times, supervisors notice an employee who has repeated negative interactions with coworkers (e.g. talking down to others, interrupting others etc.) This behavior should be addressed early and as often as necessary. Rarely, if ever, does the situation improve without intervention from management. At times, the individual may not even be aware of how his/her communication style is being perceived and a constructive discussion can improve the situation.
  • Training: Provide employees with training on interpersonal skills and communications, especially supervisors. Communication does not come easy to many people and many employees will appreciate the assistance.
  • Discipline: Employers need to demonstrate that they take seriously the expectation that employees are respectful and civil to one another. Counseling, disciplining and even separating an employee from employment, may be necessary to demonstrate the company’s commitment to creating a respectful workplace.
  • Policies: There are some sources of conflict between employees that an employer cannot control. However, other areas can be managed. For example, if cell phone usage (including texting) is an issue, then establish a policy regulating the use of cell phones and enforce it. Alternatively, establish informal guidelines. If email communications between co-workers are being misconstrued or causing problems, encourage employees not to solely rely on email and rather to also use face to face communication or phone calls to reduce the opportunity for miscommunication.
  • Open Door Policy: Provide employees with a procedure to follow to confidentially voice their complaints to Human Resources. Often times discussing the issue with someone can assist the employee in resolving a co-worker conflict. Additionally, it is good for the Employer to be aware of conflicts or disrespectful behavior in the workplace as it will help the employer identify if an employee is a problem.
  • Exit Interviews: Similar to the open door policy, exit interviews with employees can provide insight into whether there are individuals or issues related to respect that need to be addressed in the workplace.

Importantly though, the Employer must set the tone for the very top that being courteous and civil to others in the workplace is expected. Demonstrating how to treat others is the most powerful tool in creating a respectful work environment.

To learn more, please contact labor and employment attorney Anne Chapman at 941.748.0100 or achapman@blalockwalters.com.