A healthy workplace is everyone’s business!
All organizations have a legal obligation to provide a workplace where the health, safety, physical integrity and dignity of their staff members are protected. Despite their best efforts, a toxic climate can still set in. A powerful antidote exists to counter it or at least limit the damage: civility. And civility is everyone’s business.
Our work environment has a major impact on our lives
We spend an average of 1,685 hours a year at work.4 This means that in our lifetime, we dedicate more than 80,000 hours to our professional lives.5 That’s a lot of time! Enough to make you wish you spend it in a peaceful work environment.
And for good reason. The quality of our relations at work contribute to our overall satisfaction on a daily basis. It’s also a major determinant for mental health at work. When our relations with colleagues are unhealthy, our psychological health suffers. The opposite also holds true! If you have to spend a lot of your time at work collaborating with your colleagues, it pays to foster good interpersonal relations.
Civility: A powerful prevention method
Focusing on civility to maintain good relations? That’s a smart bet. So what is civility, exactly?
Civility is a set of rules that is agreed upon by a group of people regarding attitudes and behaviours to adopt. The goal is to promote good relations between them. It’s the sum of our ongoing actions, attentions and even the small concessions we make to coexist harmoniously with our colleagues. It’s a bit like the key that all musicians in an orchestra will use to perfectly play their part and deliver a seamless performance. All it takes is one off-key instrument to ruin a symphony!
What’s incivility? The first things to come to mind may be abusive language, door slamming or colleagues flinging insults at one another. But long before this type of behaviour , incivility occurs in other forms and can often seem so trivial that we tend to tolerate or even ignore it. Some examples:
- Interrupting others or not letting them speak or give their opinions
- Taking the last cup of coffee without preparing the next pot for your colleagues
- Checking your phone when a colleague is discussing a file
- Interrupting someone when he or she is speaking
- Arriving late and providing no apology
- Arriving at the office and not greeting colleagues
- Failing to invite someone to an activity
- Repeatedly expressing reproaches
- Forming clicks
- Making discriminatory comments
- Having a bad attitude or being negative
- Lacking discretion or belittling others
- Withholding important information from colleagues
These are annoying matters, nothing more. After all, who would escalate them to upper management to complain? People But over time, these behaviours add up and undermine the work environment.
Those being uncivil are not always doing it consciously. We’re all guilty! We’re not always aware of the effect our behaviour has on the work environment. But one thing remains true: Incivility equals a lack of consideration for others.
Even if it’s rarely perceived as bad behaviour and doesn't systematically have a negative impact on victims, uncivil behaviour leaves a mark.
And it’s contagious. It infiltrates teams and spreads throughout the organization. Eventually, the victims will react. And if nothing is done to address it, the work environment becomes toxic. It causes:
- Poor performance and lack of creativity
- Decrease in engagement and motivation
- Isolation and avoidance
- Psychological and physical harassment
- Employees quitting their jobs
What’s worse is that feelings of frustration, sadness and anxiety caused by incivility follow people outside the office. P&L They have trouble recovering once their work day is completed. Rather than see to their personal needs, they linger on what happened at work. It’s true for 80% of them.6 They won’t be recharging their batteries at night to return to the office refreshed the next morning!
A shared responsibility
They say that every drop of water makes an ocean. The same can be said for a company’s culture. Each person can and must contribute to maintaining a peaceful environment for everyone’s benefit. It’s a shared responsibility at all levels:
- The employer must implement a framework to protect the staff members’ physical and psychological health.
- Managers must apply the framework, make sure the rules are respected and deal with any problems.
- Employees must be civil and respectful toward one another, establish their limits and intervene when they witness unacceptable behaviour.
A powerful prevention method
Being civil and open to communication are things we can all do. There are a wealth of small gestures, courtesies and attitudes that lead to maintaining harmony.7
- Talk to each other
Disagreements happen. It’s all about how they’re handled. The first step is to calmly discuss it with the person involved. You must be genuine about fixing things. Need a trick? Express yourself using “I” or “me”.
- Be critical of your own behaviours and the impact they can make
Even if some inappropriate behaviours don't immediately entail serious consequences, it doesn’t mean they’re acceptable. “Does the behaviour I exhibit have a negative effect on the quality of relations on my team?” That’s a good starting point for reflection.
- Recognize others
Nobody likes to feel like they’re invisible. Establishing eye contact, greeting people, calling people by their name… These simple gestures make a huge difference. Highlighting your colleagues’ achievements and expressing your recognition goes a long way. In fact, it’s very rewarding.
- See the positive aspects rather than imagining the worst-case scenario
People are not usually ill-intentioned. Most people make do with the resources and tools at their disposal. With this in mind, giving them the benefit of the doubt is easier.
- Report an incident, when necessary
If you’re living through an uncomfortable situation or are witness to one, staying quiet makes you complicit. If, despite talking it out with the person in question, the incivility persists, you must report it. Quick tip: Keep a record of the facts to avoid interpretation or perception traps.
The workplace environment is the result of a shared responsibility between the employer and staff members. It’s also a major factor impacting mental health at work. That’s why we must all nurture the relationships we have with our colleagues. It’s up to each and every one of us to put civility into practice. It’s the best way to avoid problems.