Main theme of the symposium on civility in the workplace | Local News
FAIRMONT — On one occasion, while teaching mathematics, Yvonne Watson felt frustrated because the students at the back of the class were talking loudly.
When she asked the students what was going on, one of them replied that she was adding unnecessary steps to the problems. The student said that before going to prison, he sold drugs. He measured and weighed them and calculated his expected income without all the steps required by Watson.
“As he explained, in my mind I’m thinking ‘Stop!’…but something told me to just listen to him,” Watson said.
Speaking at a one-day workplace civility workshop hosted by Pierpont Community & Technical College on Friday, Watson said it’s important that she listens and manages her emotions.
She told the student to do her own problem-solving on one side of her homework and hers on the other. Through this exchange, Watson noticed a positive change and increased engagement in the student’s behavior in the classroom.
Courtesy in the workplace can be summarized as behaving in a way that treats each other with respect, speaks to each other with courtesy, and behaves in a way that creates a work environment characterized by trustworthy, honest yet polite communication and interpersonal interactions that are both personally cordial and professionally appropriate, according to Watson.
In another experience, Watson told the story of a fight with her husband over a snow shovel. In December, she was checking to see if her husband had shoveled snow from his driveway.
“I looked outside and thought, ‘You know, honey, I hate that you have to be out there alone. If we had two shovels, I could join you, but I will continue to watch you,” Watson said.
Her husband remembered the suggestion and when her birthday in September came around, he gave her a set of shovels. She said it was cute, but where’s the real present? She wanted something like a new handbag or designer shoes or money. She didn’t understand why in September he would think of winter snow.
It turned into a serious fight, which affected his mood at work. She used the personal story to explain how trauma and stress can lead to workplace incivility.
During her turn on the podium, Sharon Anderson, CEO of KCG Consulting, used optical illusion photos and asked what the audience had seen. When people saw contrasting images, she used them as an analogy for emotional civility.
“She said she had to turn her view upside down to see it. So sometimes we have to do that in order to understand and include other people’s perspectives,” Anderson said.
An example included an image of a man and woman standing under a tree by a lake and the outline of a baby, which was harder for many to see at first. She asked Pierpont Community and Technical College President Anthony Hancock to describe how to handle a situation where everyone couldn’t see her.
“If you don’t see the baby, it’s okay because he’s there, believe me. Trust that we see the world differently and therefore, that’s a good thing,” Hancock said.
Anderson concluded by saying that communication and managing emotions are the most important elements in expressing emotional civility.
Joseph Drew, a professor of government at the University of Maryland’s Global Campus, said a change is taking shape in the country’s social systems. To give an example, he referred to human resource departments and they served as faculty buddies.
When you ask HR for help, they watch over you and give you honest opinions. Now, HR seems to function as a “defender of the administration; sometimes giving away a club against teachers or students,” Drew said.
He focused on how society has changed and the problems that arise from it.
“Nationally, we have, in my view, an evolving system of social stratification. The absence of a traditional ruling social class in this country. A shrinking middle class, nationally and now it has become a barrier to social mobility, the worst it has ever been in the history of our country,” Drew said.
The event ended with questions and a discussion before lunch. Professors who wanted to know how to improve the management of interactions with students discussed with the panelists.