Good Organizational Citizenship Requires Basic Civility

March 26, 2012

The process of leadership is dependent upon responsive organizational citizens that recognize the ethical imperative to assume full responsibility for their behavior in the workplace. At a minimum, good organizational citizenship requires treating others with professional courtesy and respectful civility.

I have to confess that’s not always easy, especially when you work with people that march to the beat of a different ethical drummer. There is a fine line between “righteous indignation” and incivility, and those that cross that line usually do so with a healthy dose of self-deception.

Good organizational citizenship requires initiating professional courtesies to everyone at work independent of their response to those courtesies. We are only responsible for how we choose to treat others, not how they will respond.

Civility is a sign of strength. Those that attempt to manipulate and bully others usually do so because of a fundamental character flaw or weakness. It’s not our responsibility to fix those flaws for others; however, we do have a responsibility to assertively speak the truth with grace.

Leadership needs our citizenship. How will you respond today? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Comments (6)

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  1. Jim Taggart says:

    Thanks so much, Bret, for this well-timed and much-needed post on civility. This is becoming a bigger leadership challenge in organzations and in community work, and as you note people are responsible for changing their own behaviors. Leaders, however, may serve as catalysts to encourage personal reflection and inquiry among their followers.

    When you look at political leaders, whether in the U.S. or Canada, they serve as very poor role models for younger people. What does this spell for politicians and the public discourse 20 years from now? It’s hard to imagine the situation becoming worse.

    This is where your comment about people speaking up assertively is so very important.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Interesting hypothesis, Jim – does political activity outside of work affect behavior at work? I don’t pay much attention to politicians, so they are not big role models for me of my kids. Others, however, are obsessed by politics and the men and women that represent their views. It can’t help but affect how they behave and raise their kids to behave. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  2. Greg Blencoe says:


    I like your including a video with the post. Very nice! I hope you do this more in the future.

    And this video is helping to continue to push Reno/Lake Tahoe up on my list of places I want to go! What a beautiful place.

    This is a great reminder to act in an appropriate manner no matter how others may treat us.

    I completely agree it is very difficult to do and requires a lot of discipline. But I think the more this is done, the more these types of people will just go away.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    I used to do a lot of video Greg. Got a new camera so I need to learn how to use it 🙂 Thanks! Bret

  3. Lee Strucker says:

    Thank you for the post. Your comments remind me of Roger Fisher and Scott Brown’s unconditionally constructive strategy in their classic, “Getting Together, Building Relationships as We Negotiate.” The strategy suggests that we act civilly regardless of how others respond. “Do only those things that are both good for the relationship and good for us, whether or not they reciprocate.” That’s leadership.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Lee. It takes real perspective and discipline to act civilly regardless of how others treat us or respond to us. For me, that has been a several decade long work in progress. Thanks for sharing! Bret