This recent ruling creates a window of opportunity for employers to create and enforce policies to raise the civility bar. The NLRB agreed maintaining civility rules is justified by the employer’s responsibility to maintain a work environment free of unlawful harassment, violence and unnecessary conflict that interferes with legitimate business goals.
Seven states have introduced legislation requiring or encouraging employers to conduct anti-harassment training. New York State and New York City have enacted legislation requiring anti-sexual harassment training. We may be able to credit the #MeToo movement for all this talk. NLRB’s Boeing decision gives us the opportunity to view sexual harassment in the context of incivility.
Raising the bar on civility in our workplaces has no downside. Respect connects us at a personal level. It creates safety where individuals can perform at their peak. Respectful relationships create an atmosphere of trust. Being civil is not the absence of rudeness. Being civil is being a good citizen, doing what is right, listening to others’ opinions openly and having objective candor, being respectful and earning trust. Respectful behaviors yield trust, helps people collaborate and hold each accountable.
Being civil is a skill that can be learned. Employers have an opportunity to establish civility norms. Clarified civility norms will lay the groundwork for civility training. Part of the new EEOC guidance recommends “bystander training.” This training need not be limited to observing a colleague being harassed. Bystander training for civility norms will encourage a sense of community over a sense of individual entitlement.
While eradicating sexual harassment serves as a talking point for our legislatures, employers may be better served to take advantage of the NLRB’s decision to allow employers to require civility. A workplace that is civil is psychologically safe. A safe and respectful workplace will reduce the likelihood of any type of harassment. It will do more than that; it will relieve employees of unnecessary stress.