The Civility Standard

by  Chris Edmonds  |  Change Management
The Civility Standard post image

What does your work environment nurture? Does it enable trust, respect, and dignity for every player and every customer, in every interaction? Or does it nurture something less?

It doesn’t matter what’s happening in organizations around the globe. It doesn’t matter what the norm is in companies in your industry or of a similar size as yours.

What matters is what’s happening in your team, department, or company, right now.

If any interactions in your organization are less than civil, it costs you performance, service, and engagement.

Here are three proven steps that will help you create a more civil work environment in your team, department, or company.

Observe What’s happening Daily

Leaders must pay as much attention to how well their team is operating as they do on how well their team is performing. That will require different behaviors and habits from you. To really learn how your team treats each other, you must watch carefully, listen intently, and engage frequently. Expand your network internally; connect with front line leaders and players to learn their perceptions about how people are treated.

Create multiple channels for input and feedback. You can learn a great deal by hosting a small team of random players for lunch each week, by conducting regular employee surveys, or gathering input through an anonymous suggestion inbox.

Once you learn what’s happening, thank people for their feedback, and set out and communicate plans for addressing issues. And, solve those issues. Making plans alone won’t fix un-civil behaviors.

What you may learn about your work environment is that interactions and treatment aren’t always civil. When the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal was revealed last year, the head coach said he had no idea there was any bullying going on in his team. He took responsibility – but the reality is he was disconnected from how his team was operating.

Formalize Values Expectations

Make values expectations as clear as performance expectations. Define your desired values in behavioral terms, so that they are observable, tangible, and measurable. During a recent interview, I was asked, “Don’t employees come into their organizations with their values already in place?”

They do, but they may not be values that you want acted upon in your team. It is also likely that people will define values terms differently. Ask 10 people in your organization what integrity means – you will likely get five or more different definitions.

You must create absolute clarity about what your team must deliver (goals) as well as how your team must behave and interact to accomplish those goals. If you define integrity as I do what I say I will do and I keep my promises and commitments, you will remove any doubt about exactly how you want leaders and team members to interact daily.

Measure & Monitor The Quality Of Your Workplace Culture

Just as you have dashboards to carefully track results, you need to create ways to measure how well people are modeling your desired values and behaviors. Continuing your observation practices (from step one above) helps you keep track of how well the culture is operating – how kindly people interact with each other. And, you need hard values data. Yes, there is such a thing. The best avenue for that is a custom values survey that every employee completes at least twice a year.

The custom values survey will provide undeniable data for each leader on the degree to which they model your formalized valued behaviors. Praise the leaders that are seen as living your values. Redirect – closely and consistently – any leaders that are seen as values mis-aligned. Repeat daily.

Create consistent civility with clear values expectations as well as clear performance expectations. Model your valued behaviors in every interaction and guide your leaders and team members to do the same. Civility is a great foundation for #WorkPlaceInspiration.

How civil is your work environment? What did your great bosses do to create civility in their teams?
Photo Credit: TX Potato

About The Author

Articles By chris-edmonds
S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, thought leader, author, and executive consultant. He writes books. He blogs and podcasts. He’s a working musician on the side.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Paula Kiger (Admin)  |  04 Dec 2014  |  Reply

The example that always comes to mind in discussions like this is a suggestion box I started once when I was in charge of a contact center. (The director reported to me). Our org’s Executive Director took one look at it, threw it on the director’s desk and said “if anyone had suggestions they would come to me!” // In all honesty, she had her many many strengths as an ED but people were not comfortable going straight to her (hence the suggestion box). I guess in retrospect (besides a total org culture re-do) setting up a suggestion box without vetting it with her fed into her anxieties. I enjoyed your post, Chris!

Chris Edmonds  |  04 Dec 2014  |  Reply

That’s a great story, Paula! You’re exactly right – an open door policy doesn’t boost trust and communication if the boss is not approachable!



John Smith  |  26 Dec 2014  |  Reply

Hi, Chris

Catching up on my leadership reading and thoroughly enjoyed this fine post.

I particularly appreciated your distinction between “operating” and “performing”. Too often we assume that the two refer to the same things and further, that “performing” is the critical thing. I know of several organizations where they squeeze out profits, but the costs from poor customer service force them to do so by constantly having to recruit new customers, instead of growing those they already have.

I’m tempted to simply your message by saying “Practice what you preach”, but the idea that aligning our expectations and values with what we see and hear happening is critical.


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