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  • Writer's pictureNancy Dering Mock

Accept No Less: From Others

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

In a previous article we explored the role of leaders in setting an example for civility in the workplace. In this article, we will explore the role of a leader in shaping expectations of others and in insuring a work environment that is free from intimidation, rancor, bullying, and gossip. This goes way beyond politeness, posters and platitudes. What are the concrete, actionable and effective steps leaders can take to create and sustain a civil workplace?

  1. Accept No Less From Yourself. This is the first step in assuring a civil workplace. It entails gaining clarity on expectations for civil behavior and then, modeling them. It goes way beyond proclamations, "We run a happy ship here," and admonitions, "Can't we all just get along?" It means being an exemplar of civility.

2. Put Your Code of Civility in Writing. Starting with your expectations and engaging

others in the process, develop a statement that makes it very clear was is expected and

what is unacceptable. Here are three examples:

Example 1: We are a successful company, with great products, great customers

and great employees. We owe it to ourselves and those we serve

to hold ourselves to the highest standards of how we treat others.

Commit with me to treating all others with respect, civility, candor,

empathy and understanding. Commit with me to not tolerating

rudeness, rancor, incivility and insensitivity. Together, we can

assure an organization where all people can do their best work.

I accept no less.

Example 2: Our distinct competitive advantage has always been our commitment

to our employees. This includes assuring a work environment that

is positive and free from incivility. Please join me in my

commitment to treating everyone here with dignity, honesty, respect

and understanding. I accept no less.

Example 3: My proudest moments in this organization are those when we do good

work, and do it while upholding the principles of respect, dignity and

care for others. My promise to all of you is to strengthen even

further our commitment to civility and hold everyone, including

myself, to this expectation.

3. Engage Others. Ask colleagues and others about their experience. Do they see declining civility? What is the impact? How can this be addressed? Another often telling source of input is to survey employees and ask for comments. Look for red flags. Based on employee input, revise your Code of Civility.

4. Establish a Zero-Tolerance Policy. Just as with harassment, theft, assault, lying and other illegal or unacceptable behavior, it should be made very clear that incivility will not be tolerated. Explain that verbally attacking someone, uncontrolled outbursts, demeaning others, conspiring, rudeness and disrespect (or whatever is in your Code of Civility) are absolutely unacceptable in your workplace.

5. Communicate Expectations Widely. Resist the temptation to make posters. Avoid balloons. The best way to roll this out is asking each successive layer of management to share the Code of Civility and lead conversations about what this means to them and their team. Reinforce what is expected through employee communications. Also reinforce the importance for each other, our clients and others with whom we work.

6. Integrate Expectations into All Aspects of Employment. Include a discussion during the hiring process, through onboarding, throughout the performance evaluation process, the existing Code of Conduct, and other Employee processes and policies. Managers at all levels play a critical role in holding all team members accountable and dealing with unacceptable behavior. Provide coaching for those managers who need help.

7. Don't Stop. Continue to model expectations, communicate them widely, and hold managers at all levels continuously accountable for instilling the message and dealing effectively with breaches.

All employees deserve a workplace environment that is conducive to their best work. This includes freedom from intrusion, fear, disrespect, bullying, belittling and needless intrigue.

The role of the leader in building this kind of environment is at one and the same time,

to model what is expected and to expect the same from everyone else: to expect and accept no less from one's self and from others!

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you seen examples of bullying, harassing, rudeness and meanness where you work? What caused it? What was done about it? How did it turn out?

  2. Try putting your Civility Code in writing. Share it with others and discuss the similarities and differences.

  3. Brainstorm ways that expectations for civility can be reinforced throughout the organization? What role do leaders play?

  4. What are the implications for leaders? For you?

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