What happened to civility? When did we lose it? Did we ever have it? How can we find it and successfully implement civility for the common good? There is no denying we live in a divided world. Strong opinions, harsh words, misrepresentation of facts and outright lies have become common place. Civil discourse, discussion and debate has been replaced with name calling, hostile rhetoric and at times acts of violence.

The lack of civility is not limited to the political area. We see it every day in business. People are disengaged at work. Per a recent Gallup report, two-thirds of American workers are unhappy with their jobs and 15 percent actually hate their work. If my math is correct, that means 81% of workers do not enjoy their job and are not engaged toward working toward a common ground.

This unhappiness has a price. Gallup and the Eastern Kentucky University report state that”

  • $550 billion annually is lost in productivity loss due to employee burnout
  • $330 billion annually is lost due to workplace stress

Far too many organizations have an unproductive TOXIC culture.

This is a staggering number and brings with it serious problems such as: declining productivity, revenue and profit margins suffer, employee turnover increases, corporate sabotage rises, legal actions by customers and employees. Negative undergrounds and worse yet battle grounds develop and gain traction.

Companies that suffer from departmental rivalries, (lack of civility or common ground) are 5.82 times more likely to have systemic problems with honesty, according to a 15-year study conducted by consultant Ron Carucci. And widespread issues with honesty can pave the way to the kind of scandals that rocked Wells Fargo and Volkswagen in recent years.

While things will never be perfect, an improvement in civility can give companies a competitive edge. How do we get back to civility? While fear is the enemy of civility, education is the key to overcoming fear. The more we know about people, cultures, background, religions, races, etc., the better the chances for civil discourse.

Let’s break this down to the most basic component. Civility requires people to find a common ground to discuss, review and make decisions that affect the overall good of an organization.

As Mark Balzer writes in his book The People Principles, All companies are trying to improve their employee engagement and for good reason; look at any engagement study and the positive impact engagement has on organizational results. Most companies and leaders are failing in this effort because they simply do not understand how to get their employees engaged in the business. Throwing a pizza party is an event and won’t get people engaged. The most important step is to define the purpose of the organization, the purpose the team, and the purpose of the employee’s role on the team.

Nicole Bendaly writes in her book, Winner Instinct, Negative conflict rarely occurs from issues, it results from negative emotions triggered by an action or words. Negative emotions generate fear in the workplace. People are afraid to be authentic. They are afraid to voice opinions or ideas. Fear is where collaboration goes to die.

  1. Fear destroys team culture, eating away at it faster than anything else.
  2. There’s nothing more damaging to morale than when a team feels like their contributions don’t matter.

How do we find our way back to civility? The first step is to listen to understand, not just listening to respond. Once we start actually listening, understanding and respecting our differences we can bring civility.