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Can there be civility in the workplace?

Sunday, August 1, 2010
The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC®) has asked its global membership to comment on whether businesses can expect a civil workplace in view of contemporary social mores. SAC CEO Alan Weiss, PhD states, "It's more important for businesses and our clients to understand what constitutes acceptable and diverse behavior, and what constitutes unacceptable and divisive behavior."

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a strategic talent management consulting and leadership coaching firm in San Francisco, California. He offers a few insights, which represent the majority of our findings:

"Civility in our increasingly busy workplace starts with leadership at the top creating a workplace culture that values respect, trust and collaboration. Companies can be populated with talented, high-IQ people with no shortage of vision, education, experience or good intentions, yet they may still have an undercurrent of out-of-control egos responsible for huge losses in productivity and profits."

"Some of the most visible examples of bad behavior at work include the outburst by South Carolina GOP Rep. Joe Wilson during President Obama’s congressional address, U.S. Open tennis great Serena Williams throwing her racket and cursing at the line official who penalized Williams for a foot fault, and Kanye West’s ‘performance’ at the MTV Video Music Awards when he bombarded 19-year-old Taylor Swift, snatching the microphone out of her hand during an ill-fated acceptance speech."

"Some rules of engagement for an evolving civil and collaborative work environment include:

  • I will be passionate about my work and keep in mind what I love about what I do, especially when things are stressful or not going well.
  • I will respect others, even when I disagree with them.
  • I will listen with an open mind and learn from others, regardless of their position in the company.
  • When I have a complaint and see something that isn’t working well, I will speak up and suggest actionable recommendations.
  • I will be transparent and honest. I will strive to promote a culture of trust. I will not let my negative moods infect others around me
  • I will be a good person to work with – as a person in charge, team member and subordinate. I will not act like a jerk."

"We find nothing wrong with a company posting such 'rules of engagement,'" says Weiss. "We've found that the permissiveness of society, as often reflected in social media platforms with few restrictions, often means that employees simply don't know any better and need some guidance if companies are to have civil and productive environments."

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