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Lack of civility in the workplace is a serious and growing problem. Tight deadlines, heavy workloads, long hours and emotional frustration are spawning rudeness, bullying, adult tantrums and disrespect for others. The resulting low morale and reduced productivity have become serious enough to alienate customers, suppliers and other employees, directly affecting bottom-line profitability.

The 2013 study Civility in America, by public relations firm Weber Shand­wick, public affairs firm Powell Tate and KRC Research, found that 95 percent of Americans believe we have a civility problem, and 70 percent believe incivility has reached crisis proportions. Mentioned as contributing factors are politics, the Internet, Americas youth, and social media like Twitter. Due to uncivil behavior, Americans report that 50 percent ended a friendship, 48 percent defriended or blocked someone online, 26 percent quit a job, 24 percent experienced cyber bullying and 19 percent transferred their child to a different school.

Guy and Heidi Burgess, co-directors of the Conflict Research Consortium at the University of Colorado, have written that civility has to mean something more than politeness or roll over and play dead: People need to be able to raise tough questions and present their cases when they feel their vital interests are being threatened. A civil society cannot avoid tough but important issues simply because they are unpleasant to address… In short, any reasonable definition of civility must recognize that the many differing interests which divide our increasingly diverse society will produce an endless series of confrontations over difficult moral and distributional issues.

The current political debates in Washington, as covered ad nauseam by the media, are prime examples of rampant and overwhelming incivility. When there are no concrete facts to back up an argument, some politicians resort to attacking the character, qualifications or motives of the opposition instead. This is an old debating trick designed to discredit individuals and confuse the issue, but the main result has been low approval ratings for politicians in general. Unfortunately, these kabuki theater antics may have led some people to conclude that rudeness, lack of courtesy and disrespect are the new norm of everyday life.

Rudeness may be confused by younger workers with self-expression or standing up for our rights. But, as Thomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke of the Institute for Civility in Government explain, Civility is claiming and caring for ones identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone elses in the process.

Barbara Richman of the human resource consulting firm HR Mpact suggests that employees develop an awareness of respectful behavior. Some of her helpful tips: Before acting, consider the impact of your words and actions on others. Take responsibility for your actions and practice

self-restraint and anger management skills in responding to potential conflicts. Understand your trigger or hot buttons; knowing what makes you angry and frustrated enables you to manage your reactions and respond in a more appropriate manner. Rely on facts rather than assumptions and adopt a positive and solution-driven approach in resolving conflicts.

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