Improving the social dynamics of a workgroup is a challenging task. Social behavior resists change. Encounters with other people have a potential to become emotionally charged. It reflects ingrained habits with a long history of repetition. Ideally, members of workgroups maintain civil, respectful relationships with one another, but that ideal is too often out of reach.
The following four points describe key principles that have emerged from recent work on improving workplace civility. When well implemented they reduce the sense of risk associated with a poorly functioning work environment.
The first quality is psychological safety. When people have confidence that their colleagues will listen to one another with open mind, they will more readily learn new ways of interacting.
The second is giving greater emphasis to relationships: what is occurring between people rather than to what is occurring within them. The issue of poor working relationships is a breakdown in dialogue. Repairing the relationship is more effective and more feasible than changing participants’ intra-psychic dynamics.
The third quality is a bias for action. People improve their relationships by behaving is new ways that reflect respect and collegiality. Clear goals provide the beginning point for action.
The fourth quality is accountability. Workgroups benefit from sharing a metric to diagnose their current state and to measure progress towards their goals. Progress cannot be taken for granted. A quantifiable metric has many benefits over intuitive feelings of change.
Future posts will apply these principles to examples of workplace incivility and discord.
What do you think? Do you have any experiences to share?