November 12, 2012
Civility in Business

Civility in business should be a no-brainer. I have never met a salesperson who was not the essence of civility. The catch is that, in addition to civility, I am also looking for honesty and results from the relationship.

Still, the experts seem to agree that relationships are key in business as in other pursuits, and that involves civility. 

Joyce E.A. Russell in a Washington Post article entitled “Cultivating Civility in the Workplace” points out that a lack of civility among employees could have dire effects on a business. She cites lowered customer satisfaction, employee loyalty and productivity as outcomes of incivility.

Lynne M. Andersson & Christine M. Pearson in The Academy of Management Review offer the following working definition of workplace incivility:

“Workplace incivility is low-intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms for mutual respect.”

This definition may sound a bit technical, but it’s easy to unpack. There are workplace norms, formal or informal, that should ensure respect. Deviation can be severe (as in violence) or low-intensity (as in impoliteness). Sometimes, though, it’s hard to tell whether the uncivil behavior is intentional or unintentional.

As always, Emily Post, in an article about “Top Five Civility Traits All Employees Need to Succeed,” sums it up in her last piece of advice: “Be IN the moment. Whether you’re in a meeting, a one-on-one conversation or a webinar, show consideration and respect to whoever is speaking and other participants. You have to give it if you want to get it.”

This post was written by Nancy Conner, Director of Grants for Indiana Humanities.

In September, October and November, Indiana Humanities is exploring the topic of “civility,” as part of its Spirit of Competition theme.


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