Talking to co-workers about the need to be civil and respectful to others is the traditional approach to civility, however it has been observed that in the absence of a clearly-defined policy on civility, people often tend to abuse their authority which in turn, makes the other person uncivil in his professional conduct. This results in a huge downward spiral that greatly affects the company’s bottom-line.
To be considered as a company with a zero tolerance on incivility, the company must have an effective civility policy that clearly defines what the company considers as unacceptable behavior in the workplace. That will make the employees understand what exactly is the behavior required of them and will also protect others from feeling exploited.
To accurately represent the company’s standing on workplace incivility, a Civility Policy should be specific, measurable, observable, and definitive.
● Specific − Civility policies must describe the unwanted behavior explicitly. Just mentioning that rude behavior is unacceptable won’t suffice. Rude behavior needs to be properly defined and all the actions that constitute rude behavior need to be mentioned too. This will ensure that the policy doesn’t get misinterpreted.
● For example, a manager giving a tough talk to one of his team-mates mustn’t be put under rude behavior. The language needs to be firm and serious while also being easy to understand. A Civility Policy won’t have any desired effects if nobody understands it in the first place.
● Measurable − Civility policy must give a quantified definition of consequences. For example, the policy should explicitly state the number of days an employee will be suspended if he is found guilty of a single racist remark.
● Observable − A person’s intentions, unless observable, mustn’t be listed under Civility Policy. Policy should define the consequences of undesired actions, and not be based upon the intentions to participate in undesired actions, unless clearly proven.
● Definitive − Defining the consequences of not following Civility Policy will make the employees take notice that the company is serious about policy implementation and will adhere to it. That being said, there must be a set of different degrees of offense. Not all offenses should meet the same consequence. For example, the consequences of an employee’s not responding to emails or calls timely shouldn’t be the same if he indulges in serious offenses such as verbal, physical or sexual harassment and discrimination.
In addition to these points, there should also be an escalation ladder to handle uncivil behavior. For example, an employee hurling an expletive could be given a verbal warning first. In case he repeats that, he should be given a written warning stating that his repeating the action, the third time will result in his termination from company. In addition to this, the consequences must also conform to national and state law.
It’s important to remember that a company policy is the basis for legal action, so the ones drafting the policy must carefully weigh the appropriateness of every word, the prescribed regulation and its corresponding effect, as well as possible backlash, if any.