Civility: Civility in the workplace

Part Two: Last week I wrote about "Employee A," a prickly and counterproductive woman who was terminated by a female client of mine who had just purchased the company. Today we look at another employee that helped to create incivility in the same workplace, why the employee had to be terminated and suggestions for solutions.

Employee B: Worked in the warehouse. He would go to the boss almost daily with reasons why he could not do certain tasks. As ridiculous as this may seem, he actually believed he could go to work and not work!

He had been employed by the previous owner for quite a few years. His passive reputation carried over, however. He entered the office of the new chief executive and complained about the wiring on a new heater that was bought to warm up the warehouse. When he was challenged on his complaint, he called her a "liar." Feeling like Donald Trump, with no option, the new boss fired him on the spot, just a few months after she bought the business.

Characteristics that she saw in both employees: Basically, they were both bullies. Both employees were looking for constant attention, had to be "right" and would argue the point no matter how trivial. They intimated other employees, used inappropriate language and created a very unpleasant atmosphere for everyone.

I am purposely protecting the identity of this CEO and her company, but she has so much wisdom that I would be amiss in not sharing it with you. I asked her what solutions she would suggest for situations like this.

These are her answers: "As a CEO, I am responsible for ensuring that the work environment is productive and safe (from gossip, intimidation and clutter). In hindsight and with more experience under my belt, I would have acted quicker and fired Employee A much sooner. That would be my advice to another CEO.

"The situation does not get better with time or repeated discussions. I require a professional appearance, organized workstations and respect for other employees and their opinions and ideas. I have 18 employees and we have all worked very hard to achieve these goals. I have found that phone etiquette improved as a result of dressing professionally. This translated to a more confident and helpful voice when answering the phone. We also have fewer mistakes because the workstations are organized. Less time is spent searching for paperwork.

"Putting a policy in writing and having each employee sign that they have read the policy is important. When there is a need for discussion, I refer to the policy that they have signed and I don't have to spend time fretting about these unpleasant conversations. Some of the items I have written refer to cell phone use, personal e-mails, food at the desk, and that kind of thing. I will be working on a handbook with a professional HR company that will cover much more than my policy."

DIANA OLSON, MA AICI CIP, is an image stylist/etiquette and civility specialist. Reach her at or (626) 584-9761.

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