Civility and respect in the workplace

This post is a continuation of the series on the pillars of psychological health and safety from the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s standards. Civility and Respect are important at all times, but critical in times of increased stress and transformation when frustration levels are high and tempers can be short, such as during this pandemic.

The MHCC guidelines on Psychological Health and Safety define Civility and Respect as “A work environment where employees are respectful and considerate in how they interact with one another, as well as with customers, clients, and the public.”

One of the indicators in the Implementation Guide for the Standards highlights the need that “people from all backgrounds are treated fairly in our workplace”.  This includes both overt and subtle ways comments are made or procedures are enacted, and voices are engaged.  Diversity is vital to a successful organization. Having a range of backgrounds and experiences allows for better decision making, thorough problem solving, and in the end, better products or services. Taking time to really consider how your organization is providing a respectful workplace for all stakeholders will pay off in the longer term.

Any occurrence where stakeholders feel there is a gap in treating people from diverse backgrounds equitably will add directly to workplace stress.  With the increased amount of stress in most workplaces, addressing areas where the stress can be eliminated makes good business sense. By addressing respect and civility in the workplace actively, you can build resilient work teams that are stronger together and can continue to give their best efforts fostering organizational success and achievements.

Respect in the workforce includes refraining from making judgements and assumptions about behaviours of others. It is easy to assume if a team member is distracted during a meeting, there is a work performance issue. There are many reasons why someone would be distracted at any moment during a work day and this alone is not sufficient evidence of poor performance. If there is reason to be concerned, you need to schedule a time to chat one to one for a respectful check in that demonstrates a genuine concern on how things are going.  If there is a problem or challenge to be addressed, it can be addressed proactively. In most cases, a solution can be found. When attempts at solutions fail, there are formal processes that can be pursued, but even these formal processes must be carried out with a great deal of respect and civility.

Another important area of respect and civility is the interaction of customers and clients with your staff or volunteers. All employees and volunteers can be the recipient of disrespect from external sources.  For example, with pandemic and regulations becoming increasingly restrictive and prolonged, I’ve heard from businesses that some of their clients/ customers are directing their anger at the situation onto their employees. For your staff and volunteers to be able to carry out their responsibilities they need to be assured of a respectful work environment, including how they are treated by those outside the company. Now is an excellent time to look at your procedures for addressing difficult or abusive customers. What are your legal requirements and other policies?  Who is available for backup, or to address escalating situations? How do you remove customers who do not adhere to COVID-19 precautions? These are difficult questions. To best address them, you need to first consult your teams for their recommendations (in a respectful and resiliency building manner).

To learn more about the National Standards for Psychological Health and Safety, or about how to support respect and civility in your workplace, Community Healthcare Consulting can provide the support you need.

Let us help you build work teams that are resilient to stress and are cohesive and effective.  We can be reached at [email protected] or 705-791-4602

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