Lack of Civility: A Serious Reality

Gossip, a lack of collaboration, profanity, inappropriate attire… A recent CROP-CRHA survey has found that 1 out of every 5 human resources advisors saw an increase in incivility in the workplace over the past three years.

How to handle these undermining and unproductive work situations?

“About 40% of CHRP state that the level of civility within their organization falls between ‘moderately civil and uncivil.’ This is worrisome!” says Manon Cléroux, ACC, CPA, CMA, associated consultant with Réseau DOF, a company that supports organizations in the development of leadership and collaboration strategies.


Deviant behaviour

Rudeness is characterized by small gestures that violate respect within the workplace, such as a lack of courtesy or listening. Although it can simply be people lacking manners, it can also derive from the interaction between personal and organizational factors.

It may originate in the differences between generations and cultures, owing to high stress levels or beliefs about work. Being a high achiever, for example, sometimes serves as justification for rudeness, like consulting one’s phone at any time, forgetting to say thank you or speaking abrasively to colleagues.

Uncivil actions are to be taken seriously as they are contagious and can spread to teams or entire organizations.


The rules of the game

“In the past, in Quebec, the Church dictated the rules of conduct. These social norms have disappeared since the Quiet Revolution. Today, everyone has their individual code. Like in hockey, it is necessary to provide a set of rules for all to abide by as a team,” says Cléroux.

She recommends that organizations develop explicit standards: organizational policies and values, good and bad behaviours, code of conduct, team charters. Managers, human resources and employees should collaborate for all to adhere to it.


Showing courage

“What happens at work must be consistent with what is displayed on the walls. Managers must therefore be courageous and act quickly when they witness acts of incivility,” states Cléroux. She recommends that every manager develop tools, intervention methods and skills to feel more confident when it comes time to intervene.

For their part, employees must also develop the courage and skills to assert themselves when put in uncomfortable situations. To create a favorable climate, team members can establish guidelines together: talk privately, express yourself in the first person and adopt a constructive tone, for example. They must also be given the right to ask for help from supervisors or human resource specialist in case of a major dispute.


The key role of HR associates

Human resources associates are there to support managers and employees in maintaining a courteous environment. They can lead in the development of organizational standards and assist managers in creating codes of conduct and help to enforce them.

Manon Cléroux suggests developing three essential trainings for managers: on ways to provide feedback, how to manage conflicts and helping to foster collaboration. “In terms of antisocial behavior, prevention is better than cure! The longer we wait to deal with it, the more time consuming and costly it will be to rectify,” she says.

She also advises making the collective choice to actually care about others. “There are very civil environments that aren’t authentic. It is important to be attentive to others, what they are going through and what our impact on them is. Beyond common courtesy, it is important to develop sincere consideration for others.”

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