Leadership Journey

Helping leaders create a culture of civility and respect

Empowering your Employees to Solve Civility Related Issues

How often do employees at your company talk about colleagues who upset or offended them?  Examples may include things like the use of sarcasm, interrupting or excluding others, or a comment that felt disrespectful.  

When these behaviors are not addressed in a timely manner, resentment can build up over time and create costly tension at work. The root cause of this tension typically comes from the fact that we all “define” civility differently. What one employee finds to be rude or disrespectful may not be the same that another finds to be rude or disrespectful.  This is why it is possible for one employee to leave a workplace interaction feeling hurt or offended while the other leaves thinking they haven’t said or done anything offensive.

The most effective way to prevent or combat this situation is to help your staff learn how to resolve these tensions, ideally on their own. It starts with teaching your employees to communicate with one another, a skill which often takes time to master. For such efforts to succeed, you must help create the conditions in which your team feels safe asking each other for clarity when interactions go south. 

This requires trust that their questions will be met with thoughtful consideration, not frustration. Of course, if an employee’s attempts at seeking clarification don’t work, the team leader can (and should) step in.   As the team leader helps their employees learn how to respectfully resolve this tension, the experience can also be used as an opportunity to coach those involved.  

The following tips will help to guide you through a civility-relative issue among your employees:

  • Indicate your desire to maintain a good working relationship and ask if the person has a moment to discuss your concerns; for example, you might say “It’s important to me that we work well together, do you have a moment to talk about our staff meeting this morning?”
  • Think through your point of view and try to consider where the other person’s may have been coming from.
  • Own your response to their behavior along with anything you may have done that contributed to the problem.
  • Consider whether you have anything to apologize for and if so, plan your thoughtful apology.  A good apology requires you to take responsibility for your actions, be sincere, and offer some form of regret for your actions.   

Though it can be difficult to find the courage to address these types of workplace issues, the key to success is to resolve them quickly so that the resentment does not build over time. Once your team becomes more open to and comfortable with these types of discussions, it will become second nature for your employees to respectfully call each other out and resolve differences.

Want to learn more?  Visit www.civilworkspaces.com .

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