Four Points for Improving Workplace Civility: CREW

People can improve their relationships at work. They can turn dull teams into vibrant teams. They can make dysfunctional groups effective.

Positive action requires members of the group to change set patterns. These patterns are the give and take that occurs as people communicate. People read messages into everything others do or say. Those interpretations prompt emotional responses. And people act accordingly.

Change does not come naturally. The natural response is to respond to hostility with hostility. The natural response is to react to being ignored by withdrawing. Although people do occasionally rise above the situation and act with wisdom and compassion, it’s risky to build an organizational system assuming that this will be the usual way people act.

A more reliable approach recognizes that change requires concerted, guided effort from a group.

At the heart of CREW are weekly meetings. A facilitator leads the process, drawing upon exercises and ideas in the CREW Toolkit. The work of the CREW facilitator directs the group’s concerted, guided effort.

Points for successful CREW

  • Do The Meetings, Do The Homework, Do Everything
    CREW has an impact through the meetings. Only through the meetings.
    • Thinking about doing the meetings has no effect. Only the meetings have impact.
    • Facilitators do not change the situation. Change occurs through efforts of the team members. The Facilitators provide the guidance; the members provide the concerted effort.
  • All Relationship Problems Are Shared Problems
    Blaming others for the quality of your relationships gives away the power to change them.
    • Rude or thoughtless behavior tends to prompt negative responses.
    • The most natural reactions to another’s bad behavior often contribute to continuing that behavior.
  • Participate for your own good
    The more people attend the meetings and participate in the between meeting activities, the more they improve on civility, incivility received & given, and burnout.
    • Although each member of a workgroup stands to benefit from improvements in the team’s social climate, the greatest benefit occurs close to the action.
    • Participating in dialog that challenges your perception of your worklife and your participation in that worklife provides valuable insight. You can apply those lessons elsewhere.
  • Progress is not straight line
    It takes longer than you would expect to get off the dock and onto the boat to start rowing. And then there are setbacks and times when the group is spinning its wheels. Or its oars.
    • Reflecting on personal interactions is a process of learning, experimenting, backsliding, and learning some more.

With these points in action (not just in mind!), a workgroup has an excellent chance of improving their working relationships.

Where have you encountered challenges in improving relationships?


  1. Candace

    Thank you for your encouraging words. I wish you all the best in improving your worklife.


  2. Thanks so much, Charlene, that’s very encouraging.
    I’m posting on Monday and Wednesday. The schedule gets a bit stretched with my travels but twice per week feels like a good pace for now.


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