Where did our manners go?

Numerous workplace articles are raising the alarm about increased incivility in the workplace and pondering why this is so and worrying about the impact.  Moreover,  incivility is often covert and difficult to identify.   Undoubtedly, deconstructing incivility would be insightful, but is it really necessary?  An expectation of basic good manners might be a place to start.  The following goes beyond the music.

He didn’t say Thank You once

I came across a blog article by Peter O’Neil, in which he recounts concert events of  Paul Simon, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.  It is obvious he is a Paul Simon fan, as I am, but what he had to say about other performers was insightful.  He describes Van Morrison as “…a brilliant writer who played a flawless concert at the Ottawa Bluesfest…”, but that he  “…walked away completely dissatisfied because the guy was such a jerk.  He didn’t say thank-you once…”   It was the same with Bob Dylan at the same concert.  “Simon, in contrast, was cheerful, enthusiastic and a complete gentleman …at the Palais des Congres, smiling and engaging with us, showing his heartfelt appreciation, reaching out to shake hands and accepting notes and flowers, and coming back for two long encores.”

Brilliant but tortured souls?

In his blog article, Peter O’Neil suggests that Van Morrison and others exhibiting such behaviours are “brilliant but tortured souls.”  I would not be so quick to make this assumption but it seems clear, as compared with Paul Simon, there appears to be a generosity of spirit missing.  Or, was the rude behaviour linked to a belief that this type of conduct is what their fans expect of them.  They are stars after all.

Workplace expectations

Workplace Codes of Conduct can go a long way to bring out the best in an organization’s workforce.  There are both implicit and explicit sets of values that can be expressed, such as fairness, compassion, integrity and honesty.  Group dialogue and discussion are essential to seek agreement about what these values mean in the context of the work environment, along with what constitutes a breach of the code and what the consequences are, both for an individual and the organization.

Beyond the Code 

Presenting a Code of Conduct is not enough.  Ongoing actions include integrating a process to engage employees in developing their own scripts, practicing how to voice values,  sharing stories to gain feedback and peer coaching for support.   If incivility is increasing in your organization, and you do not yet have a Code of Conduct, it would be timely to get one in place.  If you have one, and it is not working for you, consider whether you have sufficient actions in place to engage employees and monitor results.

About leaderwalk

Diane Thompson is principal of Thompson Performance Consulting and is a practitioner in the field of organization development and design. Diane has 25 years of management experience in private and public organizations and is a keen observer and student of organizational dynamics and the factors that impact high performance. Diane's direct experience as a manager and her body of knowledge from her MA, Human Systems Intervention, converge to support clients and leaders with transition and change.
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