As a child you likely heard your parents say, “mind your manners.” Perhaps you even learned the Golden Rule, “treat others how you want to be treated.”
As we grow older these simple lessons, which are fundamental aspects of civility, become an important part of a belief system that manifests into expectations and guides our interactions with other people.
When we are young, these tenets are at the forefront of our minds because we have an authority figure consistently reminding us of them. As we get older and are exposed to other cultures gaining life experience our belief systems can evolve. If you take a minute to reflect, I bet you can come up with one or two instances that made a significant impact on your world-view or shifted an opinion on a specific topic, maybe even the way you treat others.
As a Human Resources leader who specializes in developing effective talent, I’ve started to understand that outside of tangible rewards including great compensation plans and incentives, most employees simply want to feel like they have a purpose in their organization. People want to have a reason to stay engaged and be treated with respect in the workplace by their employers and fellow employees.
Seems like a few simple requests, right?
Research released last year by Aon Hewitt suggests that employee engagement is actually declining worldwide. HR Dive featured the study’s findings from surveying 5 million workers in 1,000 organizations:
- 24% said they were highly engaged and 39% were moderately engaged
- Ken Oehler, Aon Hewitt’s global culture & engagement practice leader, said the rise in global populism is creating anxiety in organizations that’s affecting employee engagement. “Along with rapid advances in technology that are increasingly threatening job security, fewer employees are engaged and we expect this trend to continue,” says Oehler.
While the innovation of email and app-driven smartphones have increased the speed of communication, these luxuries can be argued as a source of the decline in the quality of our relationships. I would even go so far to share that communication in the workplace has become uncivil and transactional rather than purpose-driven. Ask yourself, when was the last time you picked up the phone or walked over to a colleague’s desk to have a conversation with them versus quickly shooting off an email or text message?
Civility would require us to respect the boundaries that person has set, but also take into consideration the added value of hearing the tone of your voice, or thoughtfulness to invite the person to have a face-to-face conversation. The sheer power of body language could be that 1% difference between clear communication and rapport or adding another brick to the digital wall built between coworkers.
And while we know it is not realistic or appropriate to do this all the time and with everyone, I truly believe bringing back civility in the workplace starts with embracing the concept of being more present. If we all tried a little bit harder in this area of life, we could contribute to a collective shift in mindset at work and create more intentional moments throughout our workday therefore being stewards of an engaging culture rooted in human civility.
The good news is we are all part of the solution. When we can remember what we were taught as children, and apply it to our modern-day way of living in the workplace there’s something to be said about proactive change. We may see kinder conversations around difficult situations, create space for more compassion between people with different points of view and develop environments that thrive on mutual respect.
As we prepare for a new week, think about the Golden Rule and make it a point to engage with your coworkers from out from behind the screen.