The Return of Workplace Civility: Having an effective work attitude

Many conversations in the workplace revolve around changing technologies and choice of tools, but we often forget that technology is not the only factor that is constantly evolving. Expectations for workplace culture, professionalism, and communication also evolve and require continual learning and adaptation. A company’s or team’s working culture is just as important, if not more, than an organization’s collective skills—and the day-to-day behavior of employees constantly informs that culture.

A shared set of agreed upon principles concerning respect, interpersonal treatment of others, and other critical soft skills protect a team’s culture and significantly improve productivity and employee satisfaction. Conversely, the lack of such an agreement can be disastrous to team unity—and thus to team success.

What are they key factors in maintaining workplace civility? This post is the first in a series to cover the following set of principles: Workplace Attitude, Meeting Behavior, and Email Etiquette. First: Workplace Attitude.

Everyone prefers an enjoyable work environment. Your attitude contributes not only your portion of the team mentality, but it’s also contagious. A bad attitude can cut through a positive atmosphere in no time. Let’s talk through some specific ways a good attitude comes to play in the workplace.

#1 Be pleasant

Everyone has bad days. We all have entire lives away from work and sometimes things aren’t going our way outside of the office. It’s important to leave your personal problems and frustrations at the door when you show up to work. That doesn’t mean you can never share a personal concern with a colleague or that you must always put on a fake smile no matter the circumstances, but it does mean that if you constantly come to work dragging your personal problems in behind you, you’ll bring down team morale.

Along the same lines, stay positive. If you don’t like how something is being done, offer a way to change it. Ask your team what they think could be done differently. We have a word for simply pointing out problems and doing nothing to solve them: it’s called complaining, and no one likes a complainer.

#2 Be respectful

Respecting colleagues is a no-brainer, but what does that really mean in the workplace environment?

  • For one, be kind. Show grace and encouragement ahead of frustration or annoyance. Remember that old golden rule …
  • Respect your colleagues’ by not continually interrupting their work. Every office has that one person who would rather chat the day away than sit down and work, but it’s rude to overstay your welcome at someone else’s desk. If you just thought to yourself, “My office doesn’t have that person!”, well, it just might be you. When in doubt, it’s time to leave.
  • Do what you say you will do. Come through, be reliable, be a person people can depend on.
  • Don’t gossip. It will always come back to bite you.

#3 Show gratitude

Teams that work well together do so because everyone is contributing. Take time to notice what others are doing to keep things running smoothly. Look for opportunities to thank your colleagues for helping you out, or completing work that makes your job easier. This is especially important for some of the more thankless positions. Office manager, project manager, administrative assistant—these people always work hard to support others and a little recognition goes a long way. And when your teammates see you take time to show gratitude, you will lift their spirits and encourage the same behavior in them.

#4 Be professional

While today’s workplace is perhaps less formal than in years past, we have to remember that we are still at work. The relaxed atmosphere in many offices can actually make this principle harder to remember. We can get too laid-back and forget where we are. Remember these guidelines:

  • Don’t overshare personal information, you may make others uncomfortable.
  • Avoid talking about politics and religion. It’s all fun and games until someone gets offended.
  • Respect the rules: they exist for a reason and it’s irritating to those that follow them when someone else disregards them. If you don’t like a rule, be assertive and find a way to challenge it professionally and constructively.
  • Avoid emotional responses to workplace conflict or differing opinions. Work should not be an emotional place. While we can’t simply shut off such a large part of ourselves, we can manage our behavior with respect to emotion.

What other bad habits have you noticed in today’s workplace that would fit into the above categories under workplace attitude? Next post: Meeting Behavior.

Photo: Shutterstock

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