Keep it civil in the workplace


Industry Manufacturing CCOHS manufacturing Safety workplace

It's good for the bottom line.

Demonstrate the type of behaviour expected of others. PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK

Does your workplace pass the civility test? In a respectful workplace, employees are courteous, caring and considerate when they interact.

For workers, a civil and respectful workplace translates into high levels of job satisfaction, greater perceptions of fairness and a more positive attitude. The bottom line also benefits, from improved morale, better teamwork, enhanced supervisor-staff relationships, and reduction in sick leave and turnover. When people are treated with respect, they take more interest in personal development, engage in problem solving and generally enjoy their environment more.

So how do you get there? Here are 10 tips to help make respect and civility the standard in your workplace:
1. Train and develop. Provide resources on civil and respectful workplace behaviours such as listening, giving feedback, conflict resolution, anger management and dealing with difficult customers. It’s also important team members learn to recognize what constitutes uncivil behaviour and how to address it.

2. Incorporate respect and civility in your communications. Adopt non-discriminatory language and maintain the confidentiality of employees’ personal information in all communications. Ensure that communications are easy to find and accessible to all by prominently displaying them on bulletin boards, in employee handbooks or online.


3. Give your full attention. Basic respect is the foundation of working relationships. In a civil workplace, everyone’s input is recognized, valued and our attention is focused on the conversation at hand. This focus means giving people and what’s going on in meetings your undivided attention. Be sure to turn off your cell phone or any other device that may create a distraction. If you’re going to be late for a meeting or a shift, let the organizer know in advance.

4. Use respectful language. Express appreciation to co-workers for their help, avoid interrupting others when they’re speaking, and apologize with sincerity if you have mistakenly offended someone.

5. Say hello. In an uneasy work environment, it’s common for co-workers to not greet each other. Next time you’re passing a colleague in the hallway or in the lunchroom, acknowledge the person by saying, “Hello”. Courtesy is infectious and helps build positive morale.

6. Be considerate when you speak. Humour in the workplace can take many forms and not all of them are appropriate or appreciated by everyone. Before making a joke, consider your audience. Is the joke at someone else’s expense? Might it be embarrassing or demeaning? If the answer is yes, don’t share the joke.

7. Be inclusive. Courteous, friendly – these are actions that foster a positive working culture. Find out how co-workers like to be addressed. Avoid giving people nicknames or pet names as that can be seen as belittling and patronizing. Look for opportunities to include those you may not generally socialize with by acknowledging birthdays, inviting them to lunch, or asking for their input. Everyone wants to be recognized and have a sense of belonging.

8. Practice humility. Give others credit when they do a good job. By being modest and praising others, you contribute to building a culture of generosity and trust, while allowing others to share in the satisfaction of a job well done.

9. Be a role model. Promote and reinforce respectful leadership behaviour. Provide managers and supervisors with appropriate training and supports, and ensure they’re available, present, and in contact with workers to recognize and resolve issues.

10. Address uncivil behaviour. Create and enforce guidelines and policies detailing expectations and consequences for inappropriate behaviour. Allow for constructive problem solving. Manage conflicts in an effective and timely fashion, and ensure follow-up with all parties involved.

Everyday acts of civility, care and consideration go a long way to help everyone feel safe, comfortable and respected at work.

New occupational disease resource

The Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) are collaborating to create Prevent Occupational Disease, a new online repository of health resources.

The website ( will help employers, managers and workers better understand and prevent occupational diseases such as cancer, musculoskeletal disorders and respiratory illnesses caused by exposure to hazardous substances, workplace environments or as part of work activities.

The website’s resources relate to the science and mechanics of prevention; common hazards and their identification, exposure assessment and control; specific occupations and industries where the risk of developing occupational disease is higher; and internationally recognized occupational diseases.

The site will be continually updated with new content, including submissions from around the world through its online form.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) in Hamilton contributed this article. CCOHS provides information, training, education, management systems and solutions that support health and safety programs and the prevention of injury and illness in the workplace. Visit

This article appeared in the March 2019 print issue of PLANT Magazine.



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