Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News Civility at Work and Elsewhere

Civility at Work and Elsewhere

Google and Microsoft have published their studies on civility at work and the internet at large. Here we summarize some of the main ideas depicted from their work.

Google re:Work published a couple of articles on the importance of civility at work: Going above and beyond: Fostering Citizenship in the Workplace and Bringing Civility Back to the Workplace. They consider that civility helps fostering a healthy environment that is beneficial for teamwork and helps bring out the latent potential that people have. For example, they found that people are twice as likely to help others in the future if they receive thanks when helping someone.

Based on their research, Google concluded that citizenship behavior is more common when work climate is “rooted in fairness, trust, autonomy and cooperation.” Also, they concluded that “respect and incivility are each contagious as people reflect the treatment they receive.” Those exposed to incivility are “more likely to have dysfunctional and aggressive thoughts,” and those “surrounded by jerks learn intuitively to act selfishly.” To avoid a negative climate, organizations are advised to make deliberate steps in bringing civility at work, encouraging and rewarding proper behavior.

Some of the recommended steps are:

  • Interview for civility. Use structured interviews with behavioral question to check for conscientiousness and ethics. Check references thoroughly, but also go beyond provided references, chasing down leads and hunches. Be explicit about your organization’s values. Encourage candidates to decide for themselves: do they truly want to work in an organization where these values reign supreme every day?
  • Make civility part of your mission statement. Engage your team in a dialogue about what your norms should be. Then ask them to hold one another accountable. Train or coach employees, paying attention to how you offer feedback. Employ coaches for anyone who is failing to live up to your standards. Consider posting your mission statement somewhere visible so employees are reminded daily of your organization’s standards.
  • Reward your good citizens. Align your evaluation system to your organization’s values. Make sure you’re motivating and reinforcing behaviors that help you achieve organizational goals. Recognize and reinforce actions that lead to results for the organization. Who do you depend on to help your team score your goals? Recognize the people who dole out assists. Create a culture in which employees are credited for the how. Encourage people to appreciate the acts that set them up for success.

Also, companies can encourage Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCB) which are acts that go beyond the casual activities, such as mentoring a colleague who needs help or celebrating someone’s birthday. They recommend supporting the following behaviors:

  • Altruism - helping someone else with a work-relevant task or problem
  • Conscientiousness - going far beyond minimum requirements of one’s job role
  • Sportsmanship - not complaining about petty or small issues
  • Courtesy - checking in with people whose work is likely to be affected by one’s own work
  • Civic Virtue - participating in the fabric of the organization, doing one’s “duty”

Recently, on the Safer Internet Day 2017, Microsoft published the Digital Civility Index (DCI) (DOCX) containing the results of their study on internet civility. The index expresses users’ exposure to the following online risks: Behavioral, Intrusive, Reputational and Sexual. The survey was conducted in 14 countries and, on a scale from 0 to 100, their index looks like this:

According to Microsoft’s study, UK, Australia and US are the most civil on internet, while South Africa, Mexico and Russia are the least. But many countries were not included in this study and we cannot draw final conclusions on the entire internet population.

With this occasion, Microsoft has also launched a challenge, calling on people to commit to four basic ideas:

  • Live the Golden Rule by acting with empathy, compassion and kindness in every interaction, and treating everyone they connect with online with dignity and respect.
  • Respect differences and honor diverse perspectives, and when disagreements surface to engage thoughtfully, and avoid name-calling and personal attacks.
  • Pause before replying to things people disagree with, and not posting or sending anything that could hurt someone else, damage reputations or threaten people’s safety.
  • Stand up for myself and others by supporting those who are targets of online abuse or cruelty, reporting activity that threatens anyone’s safety, and preserving evidence of inappropriate or unsafe behavior.

Microsoft has also published a number of Best Practices for Digital Civility (PDF) containing suggestions for companies, schools, law enforcement agencies and the internet community at large on creating a culture of digital civility. Among others, the practices include creating codes of conducts, teaching citizenship in school, promoting appropriate laws, and creating positive communities.

Rate this Article