Leading Blog


Don’t Leave Workplace Civility to Chance



E'RE FACING a respect crisis. Civility and respect are not the norm in daily workplace interactions. They’re not the norm in our communities, either.

Our own observations make us keenly aware of these dynamics. Now there is research to - unfortunately - support our observations. A 2017 survey of Civility in America (an annual study undertaken by Weber Shandwick, Powell Tate, and KRC Research - found that 69% of respondents believe the United States has a major civility problem.

75% of respondents believe that incivility has risen to crisis levels. 73% feel that the US is losing stature as a civil nation.

There were few optimists among those interviewed. Only 22% of respondents believe civility in America will improve in the years to come.

Three additional studies underscore the lack of respect and civility in our workplaces.

Gallup’s employee engagement data (Employee Engagement | Gallup Topic) reveals that only 35% of US workers are actively engaged at work. Globally, the number of actively engaged employees is 15%.

TINYpulse’s 2017 culture and engagement report found only 26% of employees feel strongly valued at work.

The Workplace Bullying Institute’s 2017 study (WBI 2017 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey | Workplace Bullying Institute) found that 19% of American workers have experienced bullying in the workplace while another19% have witnessed workplace bullying. 61% of Americans are aware of workplace bullying in their organizations.

This research and our own experiences make on thing clear: treating colleagues in the workplace with dignity and respect is not the norm.

Disrespect and incivility erode trust, performance, service, and proactive problem solving in our organizations every day.

All is not lost. I work with senior leaders of organizations of all sizes and industries to help them create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures.

Three steps are required to evolve your work culture. They are:

  1. Define.
  2. Align.
  3. Refine.

Define your desired work culture.

Senior leaders must make values as important as results - and to apply the same discipline to formalizing values expectations and measuring values expectations as they do to formalizing and measuring performance expectations.

Values must be shifted from lofty ideals to observable, tangible, and measurable behaviors. By defining company values in behavior terms, those valued behaviors becomes measurable expectations.

Let’s take “respect” as an example. One of my recent culture clients defined their respect value - one of six values they formalized - as “appreciating the worth of others and treating everyone with courtesy and kindness.” That’s a great definition, but it’s not in an observable form quite yet.

They defined the exact behaviors required with these three valued behaviors:

  • I seek and genuinely listen to others’ opinions.
  • I do not act or speak rudely or discount others.
  • I work to resolve problems and differences by directly communicating with the people involved.

These behaviors - along with the valued behaviors from their other five values - make it clear what the minimum standards of citizenship are in this organization.

Their “values clarity” efforts are complete, but they’re not done with embedding these behaviors.

Align all plans, decisions, and actions to your valued behaviors.

Senior leaders must model and demonstrate these valued behaviors in every interaction. Simply defining these valued behaviors - and marketing them like crazy with, for example, posters throughout your workspace - does nothing more than increase awareness. The only way to build credibility and inspire everyone in the company to actually demonstrate these valued behaviors every day is for senior leaders - and all leaders in the organisation - to model them in every interaction.

Every day.

This isn’t easy - but it’s required. The scrutiny is severe. The standards of interaction quality between senior leaders and everyone they interact with vastly increase.

Building credibility will take time - 4-5 months or more.

During this timeframe, senior leaders must not only model those valued behaviors, they must now coach those valued behaviors, praise aligned behaviors, redirect misaligned behaviors, etc., for the rest of their lives (!). Aligning all plans, decisions, and actions to your valued behaviors becomes a never-ending project.

This coaching, praising, redirecting, etc. is the foundation of holding others accountable for those valued behaviors. These same practices are an excellent foundation for holding others accountable for performance expectations, too.

A vital part of the align phase is creating a custom values survey, taken by all employees every six months. This survey becomes your “values dashboard,” a way to regularly measure the degree to which leaders are seen by employees as modeling the team or company’s valued behaviors.

With every run of your custom values survey, individual leaders - from senior leaders to front-line team leads - receive a profile that indicates their employees’ ratings of their demonstration of each valued behavior. Leaders are praised for aligned behaviors and coached on mis-aligned behaviors.

Note that some of my clients are doing pulse values surveys with one question of every employee asked each week rather than three dozen questions asked every six months. This provides a valuable ongoing measurement of values alignment across your leaders.

Only when leaders are held accountable for valued behaviors will those behaviors become a foundation of your healthy work culture.

Refine valued behaviors every two years or so, as needed.

The refine step is simply taking the time every two years or so to update your valued behaviors as needed. Some valued behaviors may be so ingrained you don’t need to keep them on your values list anymore. Some new valued behaviors might need to be added to address new temptations, new generations, new customer or market demands, etc.

Your valued behaviors need to evolve as your culture evolves.

These three steps work well in departments, small businesses, huge multi-nationals, and every size and type of organization in between.

The impact is powerful. When my culture clients implement these three rules, three outcomes consistently emerge. Employee engagement goes up by 40%. Customer service rankings rise by 40%. And results and profits increase by 35% - all within 18 months of implementing this proven process.

Don’t leave the quality of your work culture to chance. Make civility and respect a hallmark of every daily workplace interaction - by changing the rules, living the rules, and holding people accountable for the rules.

Watch my three minute “Culture Leadership Charge” video on YouTube for further insights.

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Leading Forum
S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant who is the founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. After a 15-year executive career leading high performing teams, Chris began his consulting company in 1990. He has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. Chris is one of Inc. Magazine’s 100 Great Leadership Speakers and was a featured presenter at South by Southwest 2015. Chris is the author of the Amazon best seller The Culture Engine, the best seller Leading At A Higher Level with Ken Blanchard, and five other books. Chris' blog, podcasts, research, and video series can be found at http://DrivingResultsThroughCulture.com. Thousands of followers enjoy his daily quotes on organizational culture, servant leadership, and workplace inspiration on Twitter at @scedmonds.

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Grace Mastering Civility

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:50 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Human Resources



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