In my neck of the woods of Maryland, in 2006, a movement was taken afoot that began within our public library system to try to “mandate” civility. Through the use of car magnets, signs and further reaching into schools and government with policies within its county government, “choose civility” initiative was taken even further. The movement started with a book by Johns Hopkins professor P.M. Forni “Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct”
Dr. Forni’s makes an interesting case, however, based on his research for his Dr. Forni sees many costs to a society that can’t figure out how it wants its member to treat each other. Businesses suffer from rude sales people. Stress is increased everywhere. Health costs go up. (Studies show that intensive care units with a reputation for being “rude” have a higher mortality rate than non-rude ICUs.)
Said Dr. Forni: “My message is very easily put in a nutshell: In order to have a long life, a serene, a happy, healthy life, we cannot do it alone…. We need social support. But in order to gain and maintain social support we need social skills and good manners.” *
My own view is that civility cannot be mandated, rather, change comes from culture influence. The car magnets that I reference have become quite a humorous joke among drivers. While the effort is noble intentions, culture change takes each of us to change our habits within.
Businesses suffer greatly due to lacking of civility in the workplace. Now, I’m not suggesting I believe leaders should start each day with a rousing rendition of “Kumbaya” at every staff meeting. Small changes make big impacts. If we want to bring civility back to our organization and society, we need to walk our example. “Please” and “Thank You” are timeless, powerful words for everyone. Unplug from your computer and go out to the big bad world to see real people. For some leaders, that means leave your office or cube, not just send text, emails to lead, talk to your team face to face, even in the next room. Organizations that put an emphasis on creating cultures that are civil have employees who pay it forward to their clients. It is win win for the bottom line as well. Leaders need to engage cultures where the norm is to treat others with respect, dignity and value. We need to look at the way we speak, act with each others and evaluate how these interactions are impacting our employees. And in turn, how that interaction is perceived by our customers.
Civility is not a weakness; it takes great strength and courage. And in these times we live, it is needed now more than ever. I invite you to join the conversation tonight on Twitter at 7pmET as #bealeader will take up the topic of “Choosing Civility”