Workplace Civility: Training is not enough

In recent months employers have been clamoring for training on the topic of respectful workplaces. The spike in interest is due to the #MeToo movement, to the general realization that civility in America is diminishing, and to the EEOC’s recommendations to add civility and bystander intervention training to employers’ anti-harassment training programs. Undeniably, training is desperately needed, but tossing a single training program at this topic is ineffective at best and runs the risk of being counterproductive.

Both civility and incivility sprout from the customs and habits of a group of people. Culture determines the level of respect. If business leaders identify the need for training on workplace civility, they are also (whether they realize it or not) determining that the company needs a culture change.

Business leaders must understand that achieving culture change is an ongoing, complex process. It requires buy-in and support from the top levels of management coupled with a commitment to compassionate accountability for all staff. If everyone isn’t held accountable, no one will buy into the new cultural norms. It requires an honest commitment from leadership, and if business leaders aren’t sincere in their resolve to create a respectful workplace, employees will easily spot this insincerity. The only thing worse than having a disrespectful culture is having a culture where staff are expected to behave respectfully while leadership practices incivility.

Business leaders are well advised to do some soul-searching before launching a training program on workplace civility. Explore:

If your leadership team is ready to make the commitment to building a respectful workplace, keep in mind:

The encouraging news is that workplace civility initiatives can work! They can decrease conflict, reduce stress, lower turnover, increase productivity, and reduce the liability that comes with incivility. Above all, they can provide a healthy environment in which all employees can grow and enjoy a sense of safety and belonging.

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