Civility Tips – Do We Remember How to be Civil?

When I consider civility tips or civility in the workplace I like to compare it to the relationship we have with our neighbors at home. With a smile, we pass on incorrectly delivered mail to Bob next door. We say good morning to Beverly and her daughter as they pull out of the driveway on a Monday morning.  

 We go out of our way to extend courteous, gracious, and respectful behavior to the people we live next to. Why should civility in the workplace be any different? After all, civility in the workplace has many benefits. A greater sense of job satisfaction and an increase in employee morale are just a couple of the more obvious ones  

You may not realize that when a workplace has a well-defined code of conduct encouraging and requiring civility, co-workers will often be more collaborative and respectful, and the organization will experience less absenteeism and turnover.  At its core, civility is about people using their manners, being courteous, and polite. It’s about people being generally aware of the rights, concerns, and feelings of others.  

Helpful Civility Tips to Change Any Workplace

Here are 10 quick civility tips to help ensure your workplace remains a civil one. This list is by no means a comprehensive one, but it’s a solid start to help keep your employees happy, motivated, and contributing to the bottom line: the success of your organization.  

Top 10 Civility Tips

  1. It all starts at the top. Without managers and supervisors demonstrating respectful behavior towards each other and staff, your organization won’t have legs to stand on when promoting civil behavior. People in managerial and leadership roles will always need to exhibit polite, respectful, and considerate behavior. They should lead by example with each of the civility in every interaction regardless if it’s in person, over the phone, or via email.
  2. Define and clarify. Employees need to know exactly what you mean by civility. Clearly defined expectations of what civil behavior looks like in your organization is an essential component in ensuring that your workforce strives to achieve and maintain optimal, cordial relations with each other. So be as clear as possible— you don’t want to leave any room for misinterpretation.
  3. Engage the workforce. Make your employees part of the conversation by asking your workforce what civility means to them. An effective approach is to first clearly outline what is regarded as respectable and civil behavior. Conversely, drive examples of civil behavior home by demonstrating what is not respectful and polite. Remember, an easy to understand the code of conduct that outlines your company’s policy is extremely important.
  4. Bring in, consultants. Civility might mean different things to different people. In order to cover all the bases, experts may need to provide information sessions and conduct workshops with staff and management. It’s imperative that you provide the resources that will educate and empower your workforce. 
  5. Take a zerotolerance approach. One way of ensuring this is by making sure people take action when they feel they have been treated with a lack of civility. You’ve won half the battle, once employees are aware of what type of behavior will not be tolerated. Consequences for inappropriate behavior need to be explicitly outlined and enforced. You want to allow for constructive problem-solving in an effective and timely fashion.
  6. Know thyself. Teach employees how to monitor their own behavior and triggers. Employees need to know how to control their impulses and responses when they get triggered themselves. It helps to encourage employees to always be considerate when they interact with each other. Examples are as simple as saying “hello,” giving people credit for good work and using respectful language at all times.
  7. Examine conflict management styles. Employees and managers need to understand the importance of openly discussing issues. Ensuring that your teams have the right kind of conflict management skills is a significant tool in reducing the potential for incivility in the workplace. As noted above, you may need to bring in external professionals who specialize in conducting appropriate conflict management training. 
  8. Words matter. Encourage employees to consider the impact of their words and actions on others before they act. Too often, communication in the form of emails or text messages is sent out with little consideration of the impact those words will have on the receiving end. Taking a few seconds to consider this can help to prevent a situation from escalating.
  9. Nobody is perfect. Employees will need to accept responsibility for their actions, and the consequences of those actions when they are not at their best. What does this mean? We are only human after all, and we can’t be 100% on our game at all times. You want your employees to acknowledge imperfect behavior and seek ways to improve, rectify, and prevent the same mistakes from recurring.
  10. Grade yourself. Ask for feedback to learn how you are coming across to others, and actually listenConsider the following: Have you been hypocritical? What are you not getting right? In what ways can you improve?  


Remember, organizations have the responsibility to develop a code of conduct that encourages civil behavior among all of its employees. Lack of civility in any workplace should never be tolerated.  

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has created a handy Civility in the Workplace infographic, which you can find here. 

Are you doing your part to ensure that your workplace is a respectable and cordial environment for your employees to thrive in?