In a society full of discord and divisiveness, civility seems to have gone out the window in most areas of life from political offices to workplace water coolers, and even little league fields. Unfortunately, a lack of civility can cause a whole corporation to crash, not to mention an entire country. So, how do we create a civil team at work?
First, let’s take a look at what civility is and what it isn’t. I looked up several definitions online, and the one I like most is very EQ in nature and comes from the Institute for Civility In Government:
Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.
(Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, Founders, Institute For Civility In Government)
To be civil is to treat others with kindness and respect, regardless of whether or not we agree with their stance. This doesn’t mean we keep quiet and not say anything so as not to upset the apple cart, but it does mean that we listen in order to understand a different point of view.
It can be difficult to bring together a diverse team with varying backgrounds and interests, but a failure to do so can stop your business in its tracks. If even a few members of your team are unable to be civil to one another, morale, job satisfaction and productivity suffer.
It is for this reason, businesses must set an expectation of civility from the top-down, sharing the corporate values with everyone across the organization. This must start at the interview process, and be reinforced regularly throughout each day, week, month and year.
In helping some businesses and organizations create a more productive and enjoyable workplace, I have encouraged them to bring their team together to create a Civility Code that expresses 8-10 norms of civil behavior they extend to each other, as well as their customers. This civil team exercise generally creates some of the understanding and cohesiveness desired, while bringing everyone together towards a common goal they all appreciate – respect.
Some of the most popular codes that are created include:
- We all say please and thank you
- We acknowledge each other – Hello, good morning, have a good night, etc.
- We respect each other no matter what
- We recognize how our behavior impacts others
Even when a corporate culture of civility is in place, individual team members may still have trouble engaging in a productive and professional manner due to personality differences. There are some things you can do to maintain a sense of civility during any clash:
- Remember that everyone deserves basic respect – listen to what they have to say with the intention of understanding where they are coming from. We can respect each person’s humanity, even if we disagree with their ideas.
- Look for common ground. Find something you have in common, or some area in which you agree. Even the most opposite people can usually find something they both appreciate.
- Focus on work. Regardless of our differences, every business team has a common goal. When you focus on how best to accomplish the goal, instead of individual opinions, everybody wins.
In the long run, the most important rule of civility is to just be nice. Treat people with the same respect and kindness in which you would like to be treated, even if the kindness is not immediately returned. As Gandhi said – “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
In my opinion, a little civility goes a long way, and creating a civil team can take your business to the next level!