How important is civility to the culture of virtual workplaces that have now become a necessity in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic?
The new normal for all of us is a highly stressful world. We’re now either full-time teleworkers or running our businesses from home. On top of that, we worry about our health and of those we love. We oversee our children’s at-home education and check daily on the health of elderly parents and other loved ones. That doesn’t even include household responsibilities, and worries about the pandemic’s toll on the economy. In this hyper stressful environment, even the nicest people can lash out in frustration.
During these extraordinarily anxious times, it’s imperative that all of us double down on being civil in our interactions with our work colleagues (Our families, too). Being civil can play a big role in managing stress, maintaining a healthy corporate culture and being productive while this crisis continues to upend our lives. Here’s a few suggestions:
Be forgiving. We’re all anxious, stressed and can be unintentionally rude. Don’t take acts of rudeness from normally well-behaved people personally. It’s almost never about you.
Adhere to your company’s code of behavior. Practice civil behaviors as teleworkers in the same way that you would if you were sitting in your company office.
Lead by example. Executive leadership must act as role models for virtual workplaces. But non-executive staff can also be role models. When one person sets a pattern, others will follow.
Acknowledge others presence. Make a practice of saying hello to other colleagues during conference calls rather than waiting for the call organizer to start the conversation. Welcome and introduce new participants. This helps to set a friendly and collegial tone.
Be a good listener. Show that you are paying attention during conference calls, both video and non-video, by asking questions for additional information and to clarify what had been said. Use good manners. Don’t interrupt speakers. Stop multi-tasking and focus on what is being said. Bad behaviors make calls last longer than necessary and it communicates that rudeness is okay.
Watch your language. Your choice of language used in emails and texts matter. If your words strike an unintended and overly critical tone, you may inadvertently create unnecessary anxiety and an inaccurate impression of your intentions. Phone or start a video chat with a colleague to discuss complex or difficult issues and then use email/texting to follow up on details.
Help others to be civil. Colleagues that are uncharacteristically rude may not even be aware of it. Find a way to discuss this with them privately. They will probably be mortified and thank you for telling them.
Call out bad behavior. Bring to the attention of your organization’s leadership instances of intentional and sustained acts of bullying, sexual harassment, racism and other uncivil behaviors. Bad actors should be held accountable.
Stay safe and be kind!