55: Why & How to Improve Civility in the Workplace

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Dr. Steve Ambrose discusses why he and his wife founded the “Walk the Ridge” movement and explains its goals and values. He defines incivility, how it manifests itself, and its impact on workplace productivity and engagement. He’ll explain how emotional intelligence intersects with civility, how to frame and improve civility as a soft skill and the role that HR leaders can play in such. We encourage you and your organization to get involved today. 
 
A chiropractor by training, Steve ran his successful practice in Virginia for a number of years – seeing as many as 65 patients per day himself. He also developed two software patents in the area of claims cost containment. In 2014, he sold his practice and stepped into a leadership role in strategy for a national online consumer company. In 2017, he decided to get back into healthcare by creating a unique podcast for senior executive leaders called Red Hot Healthcare. It has become one of the fasting growing industry listens.
 
Because incivility presents as a continually growing challenge in business and many other facets of our society, Walk the Ridge got our attention.
 
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Fred's interview with Steve.
 

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • What is Walk the Ridge? 
    Walk the Ridge is a movement promoting the practice of improving listening and engagement, when people interact and communicate with others who have different opinions and views. Incivility affects not only politics and social issues, but in any conversation or content where people feel strongly about their opinions.  
     
    Walk the Ridge promotes accountable for civility – both personally and publicly. This shows true behavior change, rather than merely following policy or using civility as a buzzword.
     
  • How is incivility defined and how much of it creeps into the workplace, Facebook, politics, and the culture in general? Incivility is not harassment. It is also not discrimination. It is a behavior that happens far more frequently than both of those and often in the workplace. It is often under-managed or not managed at all. It is often not screened for within talent pools or in the hiring process.  People have come to accept incivility as normal behavior – rude, discourteous behavior but not to a degree where it would be considered a legal liability. However, it is behavior that builds up and can actually lead to harassment, and it can certainly lead to bullying and other behavior that can become an even bigger issue for companies. 

    Dr. Steve Ambrose Quote on HR Studio Podcast$500B a year is lost in terms of stress, 66% of people report having been treated with incivility. Employees no longer have allegiance to their work; they show much lower productivity across different functional areas of their companies; they are less engaged and more likely to quit. Incivility evens contributes to workplace injury. Incivility is rampant, and it is growing. At one Fortune 500 company, there is an underlying thread in organizations across the company that something is not connecting, and it has to do with the way people treat each other. 

  • Is there anything acceptable or is incivility anything that someone could take offense at? Examples of incivility would be treating a subordinate like a child, interrupting people during a meeting, not giving someone credit who deserves credit for an accomplishment or pulling out your cell phone during a conversation. Civility is a soft skill – similar to other soft skills like leadership, problem-solving, and creativity. This is why Walk The Ridge also consults with companies on integrating civility within functional areas, as well as within an organization’s core values.
  • People often find reasons not to like each other based on nothing more than a difference of opinion.  One disagreement could lead two people not to like each other, even if they have 20 other things in common, and that can lead to other behaviors that can be toxic, not for just the two individuals, but for the whole company.
     
  • How does emotional intelligence intersect with civility? When you are engaged with people, and there is a difference of opinion, we need to recognize that emotions dictate our behavior. Often times, we let emotions jump in and cause us to do and say things that we later regret. An example would be the sending of emails and texts. The day after, you question why you sent that email or text, and it is because of emotion. Emotional intelligence – knowing your own emotional heart and mind and knowing that of others and being able to manage it – is definitely a part of people becoming more civil.
     
  • What are some of the principles or core values that operate within Walk the Ridge? When people become ‘Walkers’, it means they are engaging others with an active interest in civility. If you can rise up from your valley of opinion and meet on the middle ridge, respecting each other, understanding that you can learn from each other, and being able to appreciate the different viewpoints that people have, you won’t feel you need to control every conversation, that you need to win and someone else will lose.

    Walk the Ridge LogoAt Walk the Ridge, the motto is, ‘I see you, I hear you, I respect you.’ These words are within the movement’s logo, as well as on the reminder wristbands. This comes with the understanding that you do not have to compromise or change your views. You do not have to dislike other people, and you do not have to close yourself off to listening. In general, listening is one of the most important skills, and it is very important to civility. When someone is talking to you, ask yourself honestly, ‘am I really listening to what they are saying or am I just waiting to get out my next response?’ Diversity is important from the perspective of different opinions and views. We have to respect different viewpoints as well as different experiences that led to them – in our workplaces and in our communities.

  • What is the bottom-up approach for improving civility? Walk the Ridge recognizes it has been decades since our leaders have been civil with one another. We cannot count on our political or business leaders to teach us and show us civility. We have to recognize that civility is a set of habit-based behaviors that we are going to start personally being accountable for, and then we are going to teach other people to do this in the workplace, at home, in school, and even online. The bottom-up approach means it is infectious. You want to practice and look to build ‘circles of civility’ from yourself, your family and friends all the way into your communities.  As our communities overlap and grow in different environments, our leaders will see what real, positive societal behavior looks like.
     
  • Takeaways for HR professionals that they can promote within their organizations. First, teams can order the reminder wristbands from the website. They can also order cobranded wristbands – using both the Walk the Ridge logo and the company’s logo. The wristbands are absolutely key – because they serve as a wearable and teachable reminder for civility – wherever you are. On the website, there is also a whitepaper on Five Strategies to Increase Civility (see recommended reading below for the link). Begin implementing civility from the hiring process through the performance process within the company. Start learning how to tie in civil behavior – civility in management and leadership – to the financial aspects of the company. Operationally, how people treat one another and how they communicate has a significant impact on performance and engagement. If you can link those, you can get top-down buy-in from leadership. Society needs to treat each other better, even when they disagree.
     
  • Engagement and civility is more than policy. Teaching people to be civil and helping them to be civil is going to pass through and genuinely bring about a result that is going to be infectious and growing in your company.

Recommended Reading and References From this Episode


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Dr. Steve Ambrose HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Dr. Steve Ambrose HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Date: 
Tuesday, May 29, 2018 - 8:00am
Industry: 
HR Consulting
Host: 
Fred Bunsa
Guest: 
Dr. Steve Ambrose
Type: 
HR Studio Podcast