As I speak around the U.S. about accountability and company culture, the importance of having a Code of Civility comes up quite often. In fact, it seems to permeate most of my presentations at least briefly. So, I am often asked, “Do we really need another document outlining what employees can’t do?” To which I respond, “Absolutely not!” And if your Code of Civility is full of statements telling employees what unacceptable behaviors will not be tolerated, then you’ve missed the purpose. With a Code of Civility, it about the do’s and not the don’ts.

A few years back, EEOC published a proposed guidance on harassment, which stated that “civility training” is one of the most effective measures employers can use to prevent workplace harassment. At an EEOC meeting in June 2016, Professor Cortina provided written testimony outlining the value of workplace civility training. In her testimony, she acknowledges that courts have made it clear that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal anti-discrimination statutes are not general civility codes. However, she testified that her research indicates that “so-called ‘general incivility’ is not always so general after all,” but instead can sometimes represent a covert expression of bias based on social identity.

Workplace civility is an essential behavior of all employees in all organizations. These are the interpersonal “rules of engagement” for how we relate to each other, our customers, and everyone we come across as we conduct business. Civility includes the basic fundamentals of courtesy, politeness, consideration and respect. But in this time of a heightened awareness to inclusion and diversity within our workforce, we have an opportunity to take close look at what the evolution of civility looks like. It is no longer enough to simply treat everyone the same, but rather we need to broaden our reach to define workplace civility in a manner that changes judgement to curiosity and embraces the richness that comes from a cross-cultural society.

Like anything else in life, if we do not put any focus or importance in how we treat each other, we cannot ever expect improvement. When we clearly define our organizational Code of Civility, and hold everyone accountable to principles that are included, we begin to build a solid cultural foundation of respect. I once read the following and it has stuck with me throughout my career.

Respect connects us at a personal level. It reflects an attitude developed from deep listening and understanding, cultural and personal sensitivity, and compassion. It honors all the participants in an interaction by creating a safe place to have difficult conversations and leads to an environment of honesty and mutual trust.


Recently I posted a recorded webinar on our company website called ACT to Build a Strong Cultural Foundation that includes some guidance on building your Code of Civility. It’s free to anyone who wants to watch. One of the most important tidbits is the importance of having a team of employees included in the creation process in order to truly have your code represent your employee base and company culture.  Here are a few additional resources to help you begin the process.

After the Code is written……..

Did you ever read that Book “Stranded on a Desert Island with Only a Pizza and my Cell Phone?” Oh, that’s right, you couldn’t have because it was written but never published! The same will be the case with your Code of Civility if you don’t publish and promote it within your organization. At a bare minimum, you must:

  • Notify Employees that it exists.  (email, all-hands meeting, company intranet)
  • Add it to the Employee Handbook
  • Provide discussion points for department or all-hands meetings
  • Place posters around the business or virtual workspace that shows that leadership takes this seriously. (Better yet, build a Code Wall!)

Whatever you choose to do for your Code of Civility, implore you to please start today.

Accountability is key to building a culture of of civility and trust. Schedule a demo to see how InvestiPro can help.