235 - Promote Respect, Reduce Risk Through Workplace Civility Training
Workplace civility training is not new. In recent years, employers have implemented such training in response to concerns about bullying and other conflict in the workplace.
Encouraging employees to report offensive conduct is important, but addressing incidents after they happen has not proved effective in preventing future offensive conduct. Further, an employer that addresses a single offender may still be facing potentially broader workplace civility issues.
Workplace civility training focuses on establishing expectations of courtesy and respect. The training usually includes an evaluation of workplace norms, including a discussion of what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behaviors in the particular work environment.
The training is usually skills-based and addresses such topics as interpersonal skills, conflict resolution and effective supervisory techniques. The training also helps employees because it focuses on examples of what to do rather than just what not to do. It can even include role-playing exercises or anger-management training.
All employees should understand that they play a role in preventing offensive conduct, so the EEOC also recommends bystander intervention training. Interventions must, however, be carried out in a respectful manner. An offensive comment demands a response, but training should help employees understand that their response should not involve shouting or threats. Otherwise, the person intervening could cause a situation to escalate.
Just as employees are unlikely to report offensive conduct to management, bystanders may be reluctant to involve themselves in an incident. They may be uncomfortable with confrontation or with the thought of admonishing a coworker. Intervention training should give them tools to apply when they witness rude or inappropriate behavior.
Attitude follows behavior
A principle of psychology is that attitude follows behavior: Changes in behavior should, over time, cause changes in attitude. A workplace culture that encourages respectful behavior and discourages inappropriate behavior is likely to be more productive and benefit from fewer sick days, fewer stress-related issues and lower turnover.