Civility and Respect in the Workplace

Jan 12, 2021  | Thought Leadership

A civil and respectful workplace culture is built on the fundamental belief that all people intrinsically have value and should be treated as such. This is not about value to the bottom line or value to the mission, but about truly valuing all employees and appreciating the differences they bring to the job.

While our work centers are generally placing of civility and respect, it is almost inevitable that there will be times of conflict, anger, disappointment, and misunderstanding. If not handled properly or addressed immediately, incivility and disrespect can lead to a corrosive work environment. It is imperative that organizations create a culture anchored in the fundamental belief that civil and respectful behavior is the natural behavior in the workplace – the default behavior that guides the way organizations do business.

Resist Making Assumptions About Your Workplace Culture

Most employees and organizations take civility and respect in the workplace for granted; they expect it and assume it is occurring in their workplace. To ensure that civility and respect are embraced and practiced in the workplace, organizations need to reflect on the culture they have created.

Let Strategic Consulting Partners guide you in assessing the state of civility and respect in your workplace. If improvement is needed, we will work with your leadership team to develop an effective strategy for building cohesion and increasing employee engagement.

But if the Work is Getting Done, Why Does it Matter?

You may ask yourself, “As long as the work is getting done, why should we be concerned about civility and respect in the workplace?” Civility and respect are most influenced by an organization’s culture, which is established by leadership and implemented and/or shaped by the management team. By creating a workplace culture that is civil and respectful, employees will be engaged and feel empowered – necessary elements to ensure high levels of productivity, creativity and innovation. But perhaps the best reason to ensure civility and respect in your workplace culture is so that your organization can attract and retain top talent.

Strategic Consulting Partners approaches cultural assessments holistically. We will examine your organization’s Mission, Vision and Values Statements, gauge your employees’ perceptions of civility and respect in the workplace, and ensure that strategies to achieve (or increase) civility and respect are aligned to implementation strategies.

Important Questions to Ask Yourself about Civility and Respect

Civility is formal politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech that occurs in the interactions and discourse between co-workers and employees/management. Civility includes simple pleasantries, such as having “good morning” be the first thing you say to co-workers and subordinates, as well as ways in which individuals are addressed when something goes wrong (i.e., in private conversations and not in front of others).

    • Does our organization have a culture of civility and respect?
    • Do people feel empowered to speak honestly? If not, what holds them back?
    • How is conflict between employees addressed?
    • Do people take personal responsibility when negativity occurs in the work center?


Respect is a positive feeling or action shown toward someone or something considered important. It conveys a sense of admiration for good or valuable qualities. It is also the process of honoring someone by exhibiting care, concern, or consideration for their needs or feelings.

The possibility of actions considered disrespectful are considerable given the fact that there are people from five generations and many diverse backgrounds in today’s workforce. Because many organizations employ individuals from different generations and different cultures, the unconscious biases that we all have often led to micro-aggressions or misunderstandings in the office.

Micro-aggression is a term used to describe brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities – whether intentional or unintentional – that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward an individual or group. Examples of non-verbal micro-aggressions include not being introduced, not being solicited for your ideas or input, and not being given credit where it is due. Verbal micro-aggressions include such slights as describing an African-American as “so articulate” or telling individuals of color, “I don’t see color when I see you.”

      • What is expected from our workforce around these topics?
      • How are positive behaviors incentivized or de-incentivized?
      • Do we have a culturally competent workforce able to effectively work across cultures, generations, and gender to maximize the potential of every employee?
      • How do we measure cultural competence?
      • Do micro-aggressions occur in our work center, and if so, how do we address them?
      • Do employees feel empowered to speak up in a positive way?
      • Do we handle conflict in a way that allows us to learn and grow from the experience?


If you are curious about how to take the first important steps in examining civility and respect within your workplace, contact us for a no-obligation consultation with one of our subject matter experts. It is a conversation you’ll be glad you started!

Jay Aronowitz, MPA

Senior Human Capital Consultant

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