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Workplaces Lead the Way in Civility

Workplaces Lead the Way in Civility

Civility. A small word that means so much. The dictionary defines it as formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech. 

Looking back a few decades, it does seem like we have lost some common courtesy toward one another. The Westerville Public Library said, “Civility encompasses more than just good manners and etiquette. It includes the behavior that helps to preserve the norms for mutual respect at work.” 

On the whole, most people seem to adhere to social norms, but I find in this ever accelerating world, civility has slipped. Stress and the frantic pace of things can definitely bring down one’s level of civility. There is no better example than the increase in road rage incidents. NHTSA found 66% of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving and 37% of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm. 

This is a serious problem for our social norms when we would rather cut someone off than be kind and let them merge (guilty), or we speed up to keep them blocked (guilty) or not move over to the slow lane to let them pass (guilty). How much time does one lose on a journey by letting another car merge into the lane? People swear at the car in front of them, make obscene gestures and act aggressively — to what end? 

Weber Shandwick’s study, “Civility in America 2018: Civility at Work and in Public Squares” found 93% of respondents identified civility as a problem in society, with 69% finding it a major problem. The three most common places to deal with incivility is while shopping, driving and online; with 84% of Americans having dealt with incivility at some point. I believe everyone has dealt with some form of incivility but may not have recognized the behavior as such. 

The problem is that incivility has become so common, we often don’t take notice anymore. The study found we experience 10.6 encounters of incivility per week. The social norms get shifted further and further beyond what was once unacceptable behavior or language. 

The shining light in this situation is that the workplace is seen as a civility safety zone. The study found 92% of those who work with others described their workplace as very or somewhat civil, and this level had improved from the study two years previously. It is the role of leaders to set the tone for the organization to ensure civility, providing a safe environment where one can report harassment and trust that the leaders will handle civility complaints. Left uncurbed, incivility multiplies.

If workplaces are seen as showing more civility than everyday life, the study found workplaces should take the lead in encouraging civility and make it a value that becomes part of one’s performance review. Diversity and inclusion training bring positive relationships to the workplace through open dialogue and communication. People perceive things differently, so it is important for employers to strategically develop and demonstrate the company’s commitment to diversity, open communication and ability to navigate cultural changes. 

By taking the lead on civility, businesses can help society fight the decline of social norms and move us toward a more diverse, inclusive and civil society.


Nancy Peltonen serves as President/CEO with The Greater Palm Bay Chamber of Commerce. She currently serves on committees for the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, Palm Bay Maker Faire Committee, and State Small Business Expo Partner, and still finds time to volunteer with many local organizations and travel the world. Nancy’s accolades include 2017 Community Excellence Award, 2016 Business Acceleration Summit Heart of the Community Award, 2013 Woman of Excellence, 2011 & 2014 Woman of the Year for the American Business Women’s Association Space Coast Express Network.

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