Professional civility in management

Employed in an organization in the capacity of a manager, I would exemplify and impart the importance of practicing and maintaining civility as a preventative technique to managing emotion in the workplace. Human beings are very emotional creatures and thus in a corporate/business environment, emotional labor conveys a heavy burden on the human mindset, manifesting increasingly amongst employee-to-employee relations and less within the sphere of employee to customer dialogue ‘ ‘most emotional interactions occur between organizational members away from customers and clients’ (Waldron, 1994). In sharing my vision of preventing the onset of negative emotions that may harm the organization and its daily activities, I would sensitize my staff to the concept of civility in the workplace – specifically focusing on professional civility. Fritz (2013) defines professional civility as the
Professional civility assumes three basic communicative commitments: Firstly, an organization must state its professional mission and the communicative practices necessary to enhance such a mission. Various organizations have different mission statements, considering the mission statement for the University of Southern Indiana, it reads ‘USI is an engaged learning community advancing education and knowledge, enhancing civic and cultural awareness, and fostering partnerships through comprehensive outreach programs. We prepare individuals to live wisely in a diverse and global community’ (“About USI – Mission Statement and USI Creed”, 2017). This statement clearly communicates the aim of the organization – to educate, empower and unify, equip its constituents with the skills needed to function in a diverse environment. USI uses training sessions and Title IX seminars as well as team building workshops and departmental retreats as communicative practices by which they educate their employees to achieve compliance with their mission statement. I know this based upon first-hand experience as a student and part time employee at the university. In my capacity as manager, I would enforce these policies and also introduce in principle a stern recruitment process, which sees applicants having to complete a written section on how they would address various issues that may occur once they have been shortlisted for a second interview. Some companies, including Southwest Airlines and Four Seasons, put civility at the fore when they interview applicants (Porath & Pearson, 2013). Southwest is known for having excellent customer service. Southwest Airlines also takes the number 10 place on the 2012 Customer Service Hall of Fame (Webb-Morgan, 2017); such a ranking implies that the focus placed on civility during recruitment leads to better customer satisfaction and efficient business discourse. Secondly, a public organization must protect the public space of the organization and the private lives of employees. The utilization of a code of ethics and clear expression of expected behavior from employees will aid in the separation of these two components of the organization. ‘Codes of ethics are written to guide behavior’ (Gilman, 2005). A code of ethics may state that employees shall relate to each other in a respectful and professional manner. An employee knowing the code of conduct/ethics should never relate to another employee as an imbecile, regardless of the circumstance. They may harbor such thoughts, but never speak or express them. The code of ethics discourages and guides against such behavior.
Professional civility redefines what it means to work and reframes problematic relationships in the workplace as opportunities for reclaiming the common good of profession (DeIuliis & Flinko, 2016). Finally, a public organization must admit limits: public obligations to one another do not assure private fulfillment. While professional civility and its policies and guidelines for behavior discourages and advises against specific actions, outbursts, behaviors and engagements, the organizations using this practice must accept that they cannot control the private actions of their employees. The use of sanctions such as termination of contract, suspensions without pay and extended leave without pay are a few policies that can discourage private engagements that contrast the guidelines of civility that is expected by the organization.
Considering the limitations of the organization in preventing problematic issues, insight and consideration has to be given to corrective strategies. In the text ‘Problematic Relationships in the Workplace’, Fritz and Omdahl make mention to a number of strategies that preserve workplace friendships. In the case of using a corrective strategy, the ‘state-of-the-relationship talk’ is a great tool that can be used to manage emotion. This strategy recommends ‘a conversation during which the partners agree to terminate the friendship aspect of their relationship to preserve the coworker relationship at a functional level’ (Fritz & Omdahl, 2009). Let us take for instance a disagreement between two employees. Mark, who is a flight attendant and Julie, who serves as his immediate supervisor, have a misunderstanding due to her inability to arrange his desired work roster. Mark asked to have his day off moved from Tuesdays to Mondays about three weeks ago. Mark is contracted to work six days and have one day off each week. Julie assured Mark that his roster would be arranged as he wished in the immediate week following his request. Julie has failed to deliver on her assurances she gave to Mark. Mark is furious, he has been asking Julie for details about his request and has not received any satisfying answers to his many questions. Instead, Julie continues to tell Mark, she is working on it. In an environment where incivility is the norm, Mark could lash out at Julie, chiding her for the lack of communication and apparent incompetence. This would be as a result of trust violated, the unmet need for proper communication and the failure of Julie to live up to the expectation she created for herself by assuring Mark it would be dealt with.
According to Davenport, Sypher and Gill, ‘a violation of trust in any of these spheres leads to incivility or acting rudely or discourteously without regard for others, in violation of norms of respect in social interaction” (as cited in Delulius & Flinko, 2012, p. 88). In an environment guided by the concept of professional civility, Mark would instead continue to wait for his roster to be changed, continue to question his supervisor and channel his negative emotions elsewhere, in an environment that does not affect the workplace relationship. Uncivil discourses are discouraged in a civil workplace environment, but when they do occur, having all parties involved sitting down and talking about what has happened, what has caused the event that happened and how they all feel about it helps. The most uncertain element is having the parties agreeing to maintain a functional working environment. The ‘state of the relationship talk’ encourages this; however, it does not provide guaranteed success in all areas. In an effort to bolster and substantiate this emotion management tool, I would introduce policies and clauses for termination, solicit the support of employees and enforce these policies and clauses on new hires the moment they sign their respective agreements accepting an offer from the company. These policies would ensure that if an employee refuses to maintain a functional work relationship with another employee with whom they have had a disagreement, they would then be liable to be relieved of their duties or face other sanctions such as suspensions from work as a result of their refusal. The other party involved would have to face sanctions as well, to ensure that transparency is maintained. A system of rewards would be encouraged as well as, possibly having all the model employees of each month gaining access to priority parking at work. ‘Even lighthearted awards like these can be powerful symbols of the importance of civility’ (Porath & Pearson, 2013). These policies along with each emotion management tool outlined should instill a new organizational culture in the workplace, resulting in a harmonious and productive working environment filled with employees who are equipped enough to manage and manipulate their emotional labor to the advancement of the organization.

Waldron, V. (1994). Once more, with feeling: Reconsidering the role of emotion in work. Communication Yearbook 17, 388-416.
DeIuliis, D., & Flinko, S. (2016). Professional civility and problematic relationships in the workplace. Communication Research Trends, 35(1), 4-28. Retrieved from
Dillon, M. (2014). Introduction to Sociological Theory : Theorists, Concepts, and Their Applicability to the Twenty-first Century.
Omdahl, B. L., & Fritz, J. M. H. (Eds.). (2012). Problematic relationships in the workplace. (Vol. 2). New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Davenport Sypher, B., & Gill, M. (2012). The relative predictability of incivility on interpersonal and organizational trust.
About USI – Mission Statement and USI Creed. (2017). Retrieved 5 June 2017, from
Gilman, S. (2005). Ethics codes and codes of conduct as tools for promoting an ethical and professional public service: Comparative successes and lessons. The PREM, The World Bank, 6. Retrieved from
Porath, C., & Pearson, C. (2013). The price of incivility. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 5 June 2017, from
Webb-Morgan, M. (2017). Southwest Airlines: A Case Study in Great Customer Service. Retrieved from

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