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The Civility Code

Is it just me, or are we losing sight of civility in the workplace? I don’t mean adherence to law or some vague and highly generalized Code of Conduct. I mean just very simply being decent and good to one another… “adhering to the norms of polite social intercourse.” It’s hard to pinpoint what constitutes civility in the workplace. One (wo)man’s definition may be entirely different than another’s. The guiding principles are born from the myriad social, familial, and even cultural experiences one gathers in a lifetime…and they are all different. We want to believe civil behaviors are shared, widely adopted, and understood by the masses. But they aren’t. No one takes the time to be explicit about a standard and most organizations don’t even come close to holding their people accountable to them…however they are defined. Well, it’s about time we change that. Craft your civility standards, share them, and then get your employees to take the oath…sign it in blood. Need a model for your standards? Here are several (really good) suggestions.

  1. The No Asshole Policy – Google, Southwest, and others use it…take it seriously…and it works.
  2. The Boy Scout Law – Be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
  3. The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) – Recognize and manage our emotions, develop care and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations constructively and ethically (taught in elementary school…yes, elementary school.)
  4. The Ten Commandments of People Skills in the Workplace – 1. Thou Shall Not Complain, 2. Thou Shall Smile, 3. Thou Shall Actively Listen, 4. Thou Shall Show Appreciation for Others, 5. Thou Shall Not Forget Names, 6. Thou Shall Go Above and Beyond, 7. Thou Shall Never Gossip, 8. Thou Shall Not Interrupt, 9. Thou Shall Be Confident, 10. Thou Shall Self Assess Thy People Skills
  5. George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior – while not all of these apply today…and many have nothing to do with the workplace…George had it all figured out before he was sixteen. Some examples: 1. Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect, 6. Sleep not when others speak (love this), 35. Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.

These are not shared values, this is not about a mission statement, and this ain’t no employee handbook policy. It is a set of commitments that we can and should make to each other. Life in the bowels of our workplace is rough enough. Let’s at least be gentle(wo)men about it.

Image Credit: StarrGazr

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  • John Jorgensen

    Great points Charlie and one that should be taken seriously, and not just in the workplace. Just read an article this morning that the “God Hates Fags” church is going to protest at the funeral of the 9 year old killed in the Arizona shooting. Some civility please.

  • http://www.humanityinc.wordpress.com Sabrina Baker

    I totally agree that it seems all or at least some semblance of civility is lost even down to just saying “please” and “thank you”. It’s easy to blame it on the younger generations, but it is more widespread then that. In an everyone is out for themselves world no one has time to just be civil anymore. Great post!

  • http://hrmargo.com HRMargo

    Dear G-d I’ve been waiting for someone to write something like this. Charlie, I’ve been thinking about the lost art of civility. I’ve been waiting for it to make a come-back. I’m so glad you wrote this. Re-posted this to my facebook followers, and urged them to link here as well. I’m not sure what broke down the walls of common decency in the workplace. Somehow, the social code has eroded. Could it be the the slam blast of social media?
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