6 Keys to Fostering Civility in the Workplace

Workplace incivility is a big problem today and according to studies, it is getting worse. Civility expert, Dr. Christine Porath, who has researched the issue for the past 18 years, finds that the number of workers who report they were treated rudely at least once a month rose to 62% percent in 2016.

Studies show that workplace incivility costs companies $14,000 per employee due to lost productivity and work time. It can have serious health effects on individuals, leads to increased turnover, impedes collaboration among teams and it can impact your hiring brand. It’s also bad for customer relations, as 25% of the victims of incivility admitted to taking their frustration out on customers. For workplaces such as higher education institutions where critical dialog and discussion is part of the learning process, the issue of civility is especially front and center.

So what’s the answer? let’s take a look at 6 practical keys to hiring for civility.

It starts at the top1. It starts at the top.

Leaders and managers need to demonstrate positive behavior every day, and incorporate civility into your mission statement and core values.

Your mission statement is often the first thing that potential job candidates look at when considering your organization. Here’s a great example of a Civility Statement from Fulton-Montgomery Community College, which is part of the SUNY system:
“FM is committed to fostering an environment of civility. All members of the FM community and visitors have the right to experience and the responsibility to create and maintain an environment of mutual respect and support that is civil in all aspects of human relations. Civility facilitates professional growth and achievement and promotes an environment where each person can reach his or her full potential.”

Determine your team norms2. Determine your “team norms” and “rules of engagement” and stick to them.

Lay out specifics on what civility means for your team. Consider that many of these behaviors will be observed by candidates as they go through your hiring process and meet with selection committees.

Just a few examples might include:

  • Checking roles, status, and rank at the door
  • Actively listening to others and appreciating what they say before interrupting with an alternative point of view
  • Conducting tech free meetings and interviews to ensure everyone is actively engaged

Initiate civility awareness3. Initiate civility awareness.

25% of civility offenders say they didn’t recognize their behaviors as uncivil. Knowledge is power, and it gives people the ability to recognize shortcomings.

Here are some programs you may wish to include:

  • Self-assessments: The University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) invites employees to participate in seminars on “Understanding Self.”
  • Culture of accountability: There has to be comfort and security in standing up for yourself or others when behaviors are not appropriate.
  • Manage the generation mix: Be sure that your environment treats everyone with respect. Universities are the perfect place to explore issues which cross generational lines.
  • Employee resource groups: Check out this Babson College video to see how these groups encourage feelings of connectedness. Other organizations are starting book clubs and activities that bring employees together and encourage dialogue across diverse employee groups.

Align performance management to expected organizational culture4. Align performance management to expected organizational culture.

Behavior can’t be addressed in a January review, then ignored until the following January. There must be ongoing check-ins and informal reviews that reinforce your organizational culture. Consider 360 Reviews which gather feedback from not only managers, but colleagues, direct reports and key stakeholders.

Attack hidden bias5. Attack hidden bias.

Even the most open-minded and well-meaning individuals may allow unconscious feelings to guide their decision-making or treatment of others. It is especially critical to identify where unconscious bias is occurring in your hiring process and take steps to reduce it.

There are a number of online assessments which help you identify your own biases. UCCS uses “Project Implicit” from Harvard.

Hire for civility6. Hire for civility.

Few organizations consider civility at all during the hiring process, perhaps because they don’t know how to assess it.

Conduct behavioral interviews. You can better assess emotional intelligence by asking behavioral interview questions. These ask candidates to describe how they handled past situations. SHRM provides some excellent resources on conducting behavioral interviews here.

Engage team members in interviews. Similar to the 360 review process, it’s extremely valuable to get multiple perspectives during the hiring process.

Improve reference checking. Most organizations understand the importance but struggle with gathering meaningful information through traditional phone-based approaches. Online reference checking asks candidates’ references to confidentially rate the candidate’s past performance through a structured process that can quickly obtain detailed feedback on the behavioral competencies that are related to the job, including the soft skills that that relate to civility such as treating others with respect and working within teams.

Phone reference checking wasn’t working well for UCCS, so they decided to move to online reference checking for all job types. Watch this video to learn how UCCS is now getting information from 5 references (2 managers and 3 co-workers) that they’re not able to get during the application process or by interviewing.

Want to learn more? Check out these related resources:

Reclaiming Workplace Civility

Reclaiming Civility in the Workplace Webinar RelatedFoster civility in a time of disrespect. Explore the causes of workplace incivility, why organizations often fail to address it, and real solutions for confronting this challenge head-on starting with more effective hiring.

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Discover the Hard Truth About Soft Skills

Find Out the Hard Truth About Soft Skills eBook Related ResourceFinding candidates who will excel in this ever-changing work environment means finding candidates with a balance of hard and soft skills. Take a closer look at soft skills and how to find the best candidates for every role.

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