Blame it on social media, politicians, cable news or our collective desire for confirmation bias rather than truth and understanding, but incivility seems rampant in our lives.
Civility is about getting along with other people and treating others the way you would want to be treated. It’s about respecting and finding common ground with others despite our differences. So obvious and yet all too rare.
If you’re like me and think incivility and rudeness are on the rise, you would be correct. In fact, in a 2019 poll run by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research, 93 percent of people across America stated that uncivil behavior was increasing, and 68 percent said this was a major problem. That was before the pandemic and the January 6 insurrection, so things have likely worsened.
The one bright spot is that this has not necessarily been true in the workplace. In fact, over the past decade, people reported fewer rude incidents in the workplace—from 43 percent in 2011 to just 29 percent in 2019. Perhaps we should look forward to going back to the office if only to find some civility in our lives.
Another finding is that Americans continue to identify their place of work as a civility safe zone, with 89% of those who work with others describing their place of employment as very or somewhat civil.
Could it be that it’s too risky to be rude at work as it may cause us to lose opportunities for promotion or even cause for dismissal? Or is it due to a positive shift in attitudes signaling a move from divisive silo mentality to one of cooperation and collaboration?
Regardless, if we’re more likely to practice courteous behavior while at work, maybe returning to the office would be good not only for the organization, but beneficial to our society as well.
From the same research poll, when Americans were asked what actions could be taken to improve civility in our society, 55% said parents should be teaching civility to their children, followed by many workplace actions, including:
- Warning or taking disciplinary action against people who are uncivil in the workplace (42%)
- Civility training in the workplace (37%)
- Employers’ training people how to intervene when others are being treated uncivilly (35%)
- Employers encouraging employees to report incivility at work (35%)
- Firing people who are uncivil in the workplace (32%)
- Employers ensuring they hire civil people (21%)
- Employers should discourage employees from discussing controversial subjects that could turn uncivil (21%)
- A coalition of companies that promotes civility in society (18%)
Clearly, the workplace is not only viewed as a safe zone for civility, but also perhaps a template for how to encourage more of it throughout society.
While politicians, social media companies, cable news networks all have a role to play in making our society more civil again, business leaders can encourage civility in the workplace. This will make their workplaces safer, more collegial, collaborative and productive. And that’s good for the company’s bottom line and ultimately good for our society as a whole.