Workplace Civility: Five Reasons Why Niceness (Literally) Pays Off

As America steels itself for the 2020 election season, a new intervention model for healing our  divided nation is surfacing in an unexpected place: the world of work. Employers across the country are pioneering the idea that nurturing a culture of civility is a business “best practice” —and they are presenting this concept to employees as a vehicle for job satisfaction and even career advancement.

Tensions on the job are nothing new. According to a 2008 study commissioned by CPP Inc., which publishes the Myers-Briggs assessment, US employees spent 2.8 hours per week managing conflict at work that year, eating up approximately $359 billion in paid hours.

Today, resolving job-related conflicts has taken on a new urgency, since the workplace is where societal woes like bullying and partisan rancor increasingly come home to roost. Human resource professionals are navigating rough seas. Freedom of expression is a cherished American value, and casual conversations between co-workers are a key element in team cohesion. But too often, divergent views spark personal animosity. So how do we foster on-the-job civility in this uncivil era? And how do we persuade employees to invest their time and energy in this effort?

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The National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC) provides workplace training programs that emphasize problem-solving and communication skills. These innovative curricula are helping employees at corporations and government agencies collaborate more effectively.

Here are five ways that any worker can benefit from a conflict resolution skill set:

You’ll be more attuned to others. Ever wish you could read your boss’s mind? Mastering the art of “active listening” will help you assess the underlying issues at play when your supervisor or colleague seems stressed. This will allow you to think more objectively and keep your focus on problems instead of personalities.

You’ll be more adaptable. The “us vs. them” mindset that has gripped this nation is a form of mental confinement. It leaves people feeling trapped with few good options. Understanding people with different viewpoints will give you greater agility in managing unexpected change and broadening your personal horizons.

You’ll be more appreciated. The ability to work well with others is an enormous professional asset. Management will view you as the can-do utility player, and colleagues will gravitate to you. Establish yourself as the office peacemaker, and watch your personal stock rise.

You’ll be more successful. No one achieves her or his goals in a vacuum. Your potential for advancement is directly linked to your capacity for cooperating with others on organizational projects. Whether you’re drafting a report or launching a product, respectful communication will help you deliver results. And that will give you greater influence and stronger negotiating power.

You’ll be happier. Unhealthy feelings of anger and resentment will drain you of the psychic energy you need to be productive. Healthy feelings of enthusiasm and empathy will elevate your mood. The field of neuroscience has found ample evidence linking altruistic thoughts and actions to enhanced brain activity. In short, civility will give you a natural high at no costs and with no side effects.


Steven P. Dinkin

Steven P. Dinkin
Steven P. Dinkin has served as president of the National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC) since 2003. He has co-authored two books on conflict resolution: The Exchange, A Bold and Proven Approach to Resolving Workplace Conflict and The Exchange Strategy for Managing Conflict in Health Care.

Steven P. Dinkin

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