The Workplace Civility Initiative: Why proactively training managers on respect must be part of anti-harassment training

Civility is defined as the consistent treatment of others with respect. Civility Training is about bringing an awareness to managers that everything they say and do (how they say it, where they say it, how they do it, where they do it) impacts their employees. It also provides positive behaviors that managers should be doing that can improve the workplace culture. The number one reason employees leave organizations is due to their manager. It defies common sense to think that you need to tell grown-ups how to interact, communicate and treat their employees, but guess what, you do. It is a common occurrence that promotions to management are given to individuals based on job performance alone with little consideration given to their leadership skills. It is a huge assumption that managers have the skill to interact with their employees, and quite often that assumption is very wrong and can have significant consequences.

Incivility is defined as seemingly inconsequential, inconsiderate words (or actions) that violate conventional workplace conduct. Incivility is on the rise in today’s workplaces for several reasons. First, there are fewer people doing more work, so there is less time to be civil. While there may be less time, there are still many things that managers can do that don’t consume time but have significant impact, such as adding Please and Thank You to daily conversations. Second, technology in the workplace such as email and text has made communication considerably more informal, so formalities and indications of respect have gone by the wayside. Third, there is a decline of civility in our society overall which naturally flows into the workplace.

“Workplace Incivility often acts as a “Gateway Drug” to Harassment”, According to the EEOC
The case for civility training has been brought to the forefront by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which is the federal agency that enforces claims of harassment. The EEOC’s statement above was taken from their 18-month study on harassment in the workplace completed in 2016, two years before the #metoo movement came into the spotlight.
The EEOC’s statement concludes that seemingly small acts of incivility should be minimized since those small acts accumulate over time and rise to the level of harassment. The EEOC’s report stated that organizations that had civility training programs showed reductions in claims compared to those that did not.

The executive summary of the EEOC’s study on harassment is significant because it highlights the importance of civility training.

Here is the summary:
Workplace Harassment Remains a Persistent Problem – Of all the charges received by the EEOC every year, 30% are harassment in nature on average.

Workplace Harassment Too Often Goes Unreported – 75% of individuals who have suffered from harassment failed to report it.

There is a Compelling Business Case for Stopping and Preventing Harassment – In 2015, the EEOC recovered $164.5 million for workers alleging harassment directly from employers.

It Starts at the Top – Leadership and accountability are critical ingredients for meaningful change to occur.

Training Must Change – Most of the training has been focused on avoiding legal liability, instead the focus must be on incentivizing proactive positive behaviors.

New and Different Approaches to Training Should be Explored – Civility Training and Bystander Intervention Training can also make a difference.

It’s On Us – Organizations must play a role and initiate actions in the workplace to help prevent harassment.
In response to the study findings, the EEOC now believes so strongly in civility training programs that they have now launched their own respectful workplaces training for employers, for a fee.

Workplace civility training is critical. It matters. It must be a part of your anti-harassment training program.

If you would like to read the EEOC’s report in its entirety, it can be found here.

If you are interested in learning more about the Workplace Civility Initiative Training, please reach out to me at

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