Magazine article Industrial Management

Managing Conflict through Workplace Civility

Magazine article Industrial Management

Managing Conflict through Workplace Civility

Article excerpt

In the period leading up to the November 2016 election it seems the United States experienced a massive shift in thinking, in communication and in the divisions between people. This shift has damaged our willingness to listen to others and our ability to relate to them, leading to disagreement, confrontation and civil unrest. These divisions have been going on for quite a while, but are now getting more press thanks to the advent of 24/7 media and our hyperconnected, social media-driven world.

The explosion of social media makes it seem like people have permission to do or say things they would not have even thought about before. The rise of social media also has put an end to privacy. Your coworker in the next cubicle might be taking photos at work with you in them and posting on Facebook, Snap Chat or other social platforms, without asking your permission. In many ways, these divisions and social postings are no longer just "political talk"; they're a part of everyday life.

Welcome to the new world.

Managing the new world

Managers, therefore, would be wrong to assume these kinds of divisions won't find their way into the workplace. No matter how separated work feels from the outside world, thoughts and feelings are bound to surface in conversations between coworkers. As our society grows increasingly polarized, these conversations can become confrontational and degrade productivity, morale and workplace culture.

In recent years, we at work have seen open discussion of racism, income inequality, gender discrimination, opiate abuse, healthcare, sexual harassment and more. These topics are deeply personal to employees, and a negative comment can easily feel like a direct attack.

Many organizations have seen increases in calls to their employee assistance programs (EAP) to discuss anxiety over political, social and cultural challenges. In particular, calls spiked after the November 2016 presidential election, and many counselors said they talked to employees who were fearful that their friends and coworkers would be deported. Many employees nationwide are disturbed by current events, and even more are frustrated or perturbed by the discussions they're having with coworkers.

In a society where certain topics of conversation can quickly cause controversy, it's up to managers and employers to develop a culture of workplace civility and create an environment for happy, productive and healthy employees. Workplace civility reduces both feelings of frustration and potentially harmful anxiety and stress, leading to higher quality, unimpeded work. Civility in the workplace is essential, and it's important to equip managers and employers with the strategies to nurture civility practices, particularly in a diverse workplace culture.

Workplace diversity takes many forms, and efforts to build it begin with the hiring process. Diversity goes beyond hiring employees of different ethnicities, religions or sexual orientations; expert hiring managers will also look for candidates who exhibit diversity in thought and ideas. Having employees with different work styles, different life experiences and different ways of thinking diversifies the business process.

Equally important as hiring diverse employees is encouraging open, respectful dialogue in the workplace. Employees should feel comfortable speaking their minds while still being conscious of the different beliefs and life experiences of their coworkers. Including employees in strategic planning or business decisions gives them a chance to express their opinions and will diversify business practices. Choices made with a greater diversity of ideas are more likely to align with the values of employees and customers alike.

Setting expectations

A diverse workplace can function as a business thinktank, a marketplace of ideas where everyone's point of view comes together to make your brand stronger.

While diversity leads to more inclusive policies and decisions, however, it also can lead to headbutting between employees. …

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