How Do I Promote Civility And Respect In My Workplace?

Although behaviours of incivility in the workplace can appear to be relatively minor and innocuous, it is an accumulation of these actions that leave employees feeling disrespected and can create lasting damage that should worry every organization. Incivility and disrespect in the workplace can be a barrier to effective communication, coaching, and performance. The costs of incivility on an organization can be significant as it can result in employee turnover, low productivity, reduced morale and increased absenteeism. Employers who promote civility and respect in the workplace can mitigate this cause and effect.

Civility versus Incivility in the Workplace

Civility encompasses more than just good manners and etiquette. It includes the behaviour that helps to preserve the norms for mutual respect in the workplace. Whether it is done with or without conscious intent, incivility represents a form of psychological harassment and emotional aggression that violates the social norm of mutual respect. It is important to understand the extent to which civility is operating within your organization in order to address it.

Acts of Incivility Examples

  • Rudeness – insulting comments, spreading false rumours, dirty looks, social isolation, speaking with a condescending tone, etc.
  • Unfair behaviour – playing favourites, enforcing consequences inconsistently, and letting gossip run unabated throughout the office
  • Subtle harassment – making jokes that rely on stereotypes or consistently invading a colleague’s personal space
  • Disruptive behaviour – outbursts, explosive anger, sarcastic comments, and harsh criticism
  • Bullying – abusive and demeaning conduct in which a person is targeted over an extended period of time

Instead of labeling acts of incivility as unimportant, it is necessary to acknowledge that incivility is an issue and that it has a significant impact on employees, work groups and your workplace culture.

How to Promote Workplace Civility

The following are a few ways that leaders can address incivility and promote a culture of workplace civility within their organization:

  • Provide Respect in the Workplace (Employees) training and a training refresher every 2 years
  • Maintain a workplace culture where disrespectful or uncivil behaviour is immediately addressed
  • Manage conflict in an effective and timely fashion, and ensure follow-up with all parties involved
  • Adopt non-discriminatory language in all communications
  • Maintain confidentiality of employees’ personal information in all communications
  • Ensure a formal investigation is conducted


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