Leading With Civility: 4 Lessons for Speaking Up at Work

Visual from Seeds of Civility about Speaking UpWhen people think about civility, they often think about being kind, having manners or being nice. Civility is a path to results that leads to respect for others. But it also means respecting yourself and figuring out how to speak up.

When I first read Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni I was happy to see that the author included a chapter called Assert Yourself.

Why does speaking up matter?

When you work to achieve results in an organization there are as many perspectives on the right way to do something as there are people.  To get your opinions and perspective heard you will need to be comfortable sharing them. Consider these lessons:

4 Lessons about Speaking Up at Work Graphic of Leading with Civility ; 4 Lessons for Speaking Up

1.  Silence can mean you agree 

Have you been in a meeting where people just remain silent?  The meeting might go fast but there is a danger in an organization when everyone agrees. By not saying anything or even asking any questions we give our tacit approval and one or two people lead rather than including varied perspectives in decision making.  In an emergency situation that is fine, decisions of leaders need to be made quickly.  However for longer term decisions such as developing new products, communicating customer service issues, or day to day operational concerns, each person involved need to share his or her perspective.

2.  Everyone deserves to know where they stand 

Do you have a hard time speaking up if you don’t agree with another person’s idea or approach? It is uncomfortable to criticize someone. Criticizing someone can bring up negative emotions. This brings discomfort but it is the way the human brain processes emotional information. Everyone deserves to know how you stand with them.  Even if the person doesn’t like it and doesn’t respond well, it still makes the workplace better. For help on how to do it check out a great post from Inc.com Columnist Kevin Daum who wrote How to Give (and Receive) Positive Criticism.

3.  Being consistent adds volume

The goal of speaking up is to make a difference. Being consistent is the most effective way to have your voice add up to being heard. There are a lot of competing messages so repetition is necessary.

4.  Hard work won’t make up for not speaking up

Even if you don’t see yourself as a leader, and you don’t speak up, you are hurting both yourself in your career and the organization which needs your unique perspective in order to perform optimally.

Gather 510 px squareThe Seeds of Civility is a blog that is created by The Wallace Centers of Iowa.  Here we gather tips for leading (and developing emerging leaders) with civility.

Compassion: An Antidote to Incivility

Graphic of a quote by Henry A. WallaceConsider this quote by Henry A. Wallace, a statesman, scientist and leader from an earlier generation.  It suggests his approach to incivility.

Today, we still see faces distorted by anger. The hunger Wallace describes can be seen as a metaphor for not being heard, understood, or a condition from trauma of a difficult situation encountered earlier in life.  When we see an angry face, we just don’t know what caused the face to be angry.

Prior to what historians now call the civil rights movement, Wallace faced angry faces and hateful reactions during his travels in the South.  He saw the pain in the faces of angry people as a symptom of their state.  It probably does not mean he excused them for their actions, he just knew that at that particular moment their actions were a sign of their emotions rather than a expression of their character.  He had the presence of mind to not aggravate their stress.Re-Think Angry Faces Photo

Researchers suggest that we are wired to see facial expressions and react with a flight or fight response.  So compassion must be intentional and developed at time when we are not in stressful situations.

Getting to the state of compassion comes from a personal decision.  A person needs to get there on his or her own.  Like the whole concept of civility, compassion  cannot be mandated.

There are models of compassion out there.  Who comes to mind as a model of compassion.  What have these models of compassion done to get there?

plant seeds graphicSeeds of Civility is a blog that is created by The Wallace Centers of Iowa.  Here we plant seeds of inspiration for your daily life.

Leading with Civility: 5 Steps to Include Others

Graphic of Include OthersNo matter where you work, there are probably people that feel left out; they might even appear like they want to be on their own. There can be all kinds of reasons for their isolation. The reasons do not matter as much as the steps you can take to include them.

Why does including others matters?

The benefit of including others, even the loners, is that they have something to contribute; perhaps it’s a unique perspective to the work you are doing. Including others contributes to an organization’s overall well-being, which is why so many are investing resources in practices that promote diversity and inclusion.

5 Steps to Include Others

Graphic of 5 Tips

  1. Pay Attention – The first step to inclusion is to pay attention to those people that seem to be on the sidelines; those who don’t say anything at a meeting or just keep to themselves.
  2. Don’t try to change the person – The next step is to realize that the goal isn’t to change them in some way or to “get them” to contribute. The goal is to understand their perspective.
  3. Assume a mindset of curiosity – Now that you know there are people out there with perspectives different than yours, you can assume a mindset of curiosity and a willingness to risk being rejected. They might not want to share their perspective so it may take patience and time.
  4. Build Trust – Know how to use social and one-on-one situations effectively. In social situations it is best to invite them along without expecting anything in particular. After you have built a level of trust, you can engage them in a conversation.
  5. Look for signs that will allow conversations to unfold naturally – Watch for signs that a conversation could unfold. Is the other person expressing any emotion? You can simply say, You seem_______.” You fill in the blank with the emotion you are observing. After hearing what they have to say, you can keep the conversation going with comments like, “I hear you.”, “How did that go?” or “What’s next?”

If you try these tips or have additional ideas, reach out to us at @seedsofcivility

Additional resource: The Inclusion Dividend: Why Investing in Diversity and Inclusion Pays Off by Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan.

plant seeds graphicThe Seeds of Civility is a blog that is created by The Wallace Centers of Iowa.  Here we plant seeds of inspiration for your daily life.