Office Oops – Solutions for Workplace Civility

Often people are not aware of their behaviour and communication, and the impact it has on those around them.  Here are five options for workplace civility.


1.      Ignore the workplace incivility if:

  • It’s only a problem because you perceive it that way.
  • It’s not your business and it’s not hurting client relationships


2.      Bring in an image consultant to do an objective training.  It’s easier to hear it from someone not in the company.


3.      If the perpetrator is a colleague, you may need to bring it to the manager’s attention; it’s much easier coming from the person in charge than by someone at the same level.


4.      Develop a “Civility Code”:

  • send it as a memo
  • have it framed and hung in a prominent place


5.      Say something yourself.  If you take this route, here are some guidelines:

  • Be polite.  You can be a role model.  Show civility and respect at all times.
  • Use non-judgemental language, such as::
  • “There seems to be an issue with odour” – instead of “you smell.”
  • “There seems to be a communication issue” – instead of “you’re confrontational and difficult to get along with.”
  • Avoid using a tonality that apologizes, as it invites the person to feel embarrassed or as if they’ve done something wrong.  “I don’t know how to tell you this, but….” is a definite no-no.
  • Use a neutral tonality.  A neutral tonality has no judgement.
  • Give a subtle hint by asking a question:
  • “Is this your cup?” – as a hint that they have left a dirty cup for someone else to wash.
  • “Do you know whose lunch this is?” – as a hint that the lunch may have been forgotten and is now bad.
  • Make a direct statement in a pleasant, friendly tonality:
  • “I’m sorry; I’d love to chat, but I have quite a bit of work that I better get back to.”
  • “That question is a little personal.”
  • “That might be too much information.”


Counter incivility with civility!  Sometimes just awareness is enough to make a difference and help create workplace civility.


Karen Brunger is President of International Image Institute Inc. and Past-President of the Association of Image Consultants International


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