Civility rules the day at workshop

Civility rules the day at workshop

CHAMPAIGN — No fights erupted. No booing broke out.

All in all, it was a successful civility workshop.

The makeup of the audience helped. The 50 or so attending "Civility in the Workplace" at the Champaign Public Library included civil servants so mannerly that the librarians never had to shush them.

The atmosphere Tuesday was far removed from the road rage, bashing on social media and rude talk from TV pundits that prompted the library's weeklong focus on civility.

But workshop leader Jill Bremer noted plenty of factors can cause friction in the workplace, including heavy workloads, frequent interruptions and increased stress.

Workshop participants were quick to identify on-the-job problems, such as chronic complainers, employees who don't pull their weight and people who aren't team players.

They also cited practices that get under colleagues' skin, including:

— Making comments on co-workers' phone conversations.

— Emailing or texting messages that should be delivered face to face.

— Eating others' food from the company fridge.

— Letting materials pile up in company common areas.

Bremer defined civility as "being mindful of the dignity" of each human being, taking care not to demean individuals in any way.

She advised people to go beyond the Golden Rule — treat others the way you want to be treated — and heed what she called the "Platinum Rule" — treat others the way they wanted to be treated.

Bremer advised people to confine office small talk to arts and entertainment — and stay away from stickier topics such as politics, religion, love life and medical challenges.

"Stop having a Facebook mentality" and don't share everything, she said. "We've gotten more casual and open, but there are boundaries."

Be conscious of others' personal space, whether they work in a walled office or cubicle, Bremer said.

Make eye contact before entering, and don't read their computer screens, she said.

Pretend as though you haven't heard others' phone conversations — even if you sit next to them — and don't interject your comments.

If you work in a spacious room, don't yell across the room to a colleague, she said.

"I would say 'Use your library voice,' but I don't think everybody has one," she said.

When dealing with a disgruntled client or customer on the phone, don't bad-mouth them after you hang up, Bremer said.

If you have to release anger, go to a "venting" room where you can let off steam privately.

"It's OK to feel angry; you just can't act on it," she said. "You can write an angry email, but don't send it."

When dealing with angry customers, let them vent and address their feelings before discussing the facts.

"It's good to say, 'I'm so sorry that happened. That must have been frustrating for you,'" she said.

If a customer specifically says he or she is "frustrated," "disappointed" or "angry," use that same word in responding to confirm you heard what was said, Bremer advised.

But if the customer acts angrily, don't mirror that behavior. Keep your tone moderate, she said.

Bremer encouraged people to practice personal, professional and social responsibility.

Personal responsibility involves: arriving at work early or on time; maintaining appearance and hygiene; watching what you say and how you say it; and "doing the right thing when no one's watching," such as wiping up around sinks and replenishing break-room supplies.

Professional responsibility includes: meeting deadlines, not blaming others and coming up with new ideas to make the organization more successful.

Social responsibility involves: training and mentoring others; publicly praising others' work; displaying empathy and compassion; and not working sick.

At the end, Bremer practiced what she preached, telling her audience, "Thank you for your time and attention."

The audience showed manners too, not by yelling, "No problem," but by applauding.

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