10 Questions that Promote Work Culture Civility

Ericka, a regional director, recently contacted me for training on how to create a respectful work culture. She took a promotion from manager to director six months ago and inherited a team culture of infighting, bullying, and intimidation. Not a happy bunch.

“The previous director played favorites and tolerated insensitive comments targeting new employees, I won’t tolerate it,” she said.

In last month’s blog, we addressed four stages of incivility from the book Trust Your Canary: Every Leader’s Guide to Taming Workplace Incivility by Sharone Bar-David. The stages outline how organizational health deteriorates the longer it tolerates uncivil behaviors such as condescension, exclusion, bullying, and harassment.

Today, we’ll address what you can do to stop the spread of incivility in your organization in ways other than needed policies and protocols. Instead this blog will help you draw people to positive behaviors, rather than focus on negative behaviors. This is NOT to say that unacceptable behaviors go unaddressed, rather it’s how they are addressed.

The goal is a positive work environment

Erika’s ultimate goal is to create a positive work environment where people feel free to share ideas without fear of ridicule, sarcasm, or condescending comments. She said most of her employees enjoy their jobs, but a handful of employees infect the culture with uncivil behaviors and create tension. On a 10-point scale, with 10 being the kind of culture that brings out the best in employees, she rated the current culture as a three. She said she didn’t rate it lower because recent hires are positive, bring fresh ideas, and try to make the most of a difficult situation. When asked how employees will behave when uncivility is gone she said, “communication will be polite and courteous, conflict will be addressed in a respectful manner, and I will no longer receive complaints about employee’s behavior.”

What’s been tried?

Ericka said she tried to address problem behaviors when she spoke with employees and let them know she won’t allow it to continue.

“I’ve been very clear I will follow through with consequences from suspension to termination if these behaviors continue, no matter how long the employee has been with the company,” she said. Secondly, she brought in security and union representatives to speak with employees about creating a safe, respectful work environment.

Drawing people to positive behaviors

Beyond the education about what constitutes a respectful workplace, I invited Ericka to answer the following questions to dramatically improve the retention of healthy behaviors. In her answers, she identified specific ways she can intervene and adapt her current approach to reach the goal of a respectful work culture.

  1. What’s already working to promote respectful behaviors? List as many as you can.
  2. How can you, as a leader, promote more of what’s working?
  3. What are the strengths that keep your culture from dropping below a three on the scale?
  4. What is the first thing that would indicate a turnaround in your work culture?
  5. What limitations need to be taken into account to create a respectful work culture?
  6. What will you, as a leader, do differently to promote a respectful work culture?
  7. How will you create repetition of and reinforce positive behaviors?
  8. What is the most important thing to remember if employees slip back into uncivil behaviors?
  9. If you don’t protect the well-being of your work culture, what’s likely to happen?
  10. What makes you resolute to create a respectful work culture?

Create a lasting culture effect

These questions help you define a clear roadmap to construct unique and effective solutions that promote a respectful, civil work culture. My experience as both a family therapist and Corporate Culture Consultant have taught me that focus on company values and positive behaviors creates a lasting culture effect. Use the questions to map out behaviors you want to define your culture, focus on strengths, and follow through with consequences when expectations aren’t met. When you do, you will remedy the spread of incivility in your organization.

If you’re ready to turn around incivility in your work culture, let’s talk. Together we’ll develop a system and process so every employee knows expected behaviors and contributes to a civil and respectful work culture.

Workplace Conflict Expert Bonnie Artman Fox, MS, LMFT, works with executive leaders and team managers who want to stop divisive behaviors, resolve conflict, and build the team trust needed to create a healthy work culture.  Contact Bonnie to help your employees get along and bring teams together.

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