With Mental Health Awareness being very visible over the last couple of weeks, I have also noticed an increase in my social media feeds and conversations around how it is, in the workplace. Conversations around how we treat each other. There is a movement around Humanising The Workplace and academic papers around Civility in the workplace (specifically healthcare):


A Harvard Business Review podcast from December 2018

starts with this:

“KRISTA TIPPETT: The interesting thing is that in very recent history, we didn’t even really think we had to put those two words together in a sentence – civility and the workplace. Somehow in the late 20th century, we lived with a different kind of structure and role expectation in every aspect of our lives, right? Even in the family. People played roles in inhabited them and compartmentalize their lives, including distinguishing between their lives at work and their lives at home.
And somehow that worked and it doesn’t work anymore. And I think new generations, in particular, are just not willing to divide themselves up in that way. And in terms of the civility piece, I mean this is also one manifestation of the fact that the human drama has entered public life and political life in a way that it wasn’t out on the surface before and it has entered all of the aspects of our life together. And life at work is one of those.
Somehow we used to be able to pretend that we could separate these spheres out, but I think any leader of an organization now – you know, and I am one – has to take in and acknowledge that people are coming to work, feeling all the feelings, having all the reactions around the things that are happening in public life now.”

This podcast picks up the fact that research around civility in the workplace started in 1999 – the turn of the century. This is a truly 21st Century concept. The podcast is actually focusing on “civilizational reframing”. Krista talks about how we should be thinking more academically about asking the right questions about what is happening in our society and what we want to happen in our communities and therefore in our workplaces. Our younger generations are so much more open than previous working generations, so they bring their “whole self” to work. As employers, managers and colleagues we should be supporting a wise workplace where we use our emotional intelligence to identify where people need support and then identify whether that support is appropriate or possible. It is not about us having to “pander” to others, but to combine the ability of the workplace to provide support to facilitate working and performance for individuals, alongside the individual’s responsibility to work effectively, apply appropriate boundaries, ask for help when they need it, but also be aware of the impact they are having on others. It is a two way street.

I was at a networking event focused on wellbeing at work today where a speaker talked about a “culture of care” rather than a culture of compliance. I have also listened to a number of people in leadership roles talking about Kindness in the workplace and the positive influence that has on performance:


We all understand that workplace cultures are built around values, right? We see them on the wall……. Integrity……..Respect……….Courage……… But do we see them in action? I’m wracking my brain to identify where I heard that it isn’t about values in the workplace, it is about virtues (If you know where I heard it, please do tell me, it’s bugging me!).

It stuck with me. It reflects the lack of authenticity I feel about values in the workplace within some of the organisations I have worked with or seen in public situations, particularly when I don’t see those “values” enacted by the people working there, including the leaders who espouse them. There is so much rhetoric and research around values in the workplace. Some organisations have really worked it out and they have values that reflect behaviours and everyone really understands what those values mean to them, their colleagues and how they work. South West Airlines always comes up in the list of companies who truly espouse their values, Zappos is also up there. Others such as Apple, Google & Twitter are around the top too. What makes them different? If you asked Simon Sinek, he would say they understand their “Why………..” Why are we here? What do we want to achieve? How do we do it together? How do we want to be?
So, having meshed together a whole host of concepts, what is this really about?

For me, it is about what we really stand for at work. Ensuring everyone knows what that is and is prepared to make it happen. It is about treating each other as humans and understanding what being human, at work, is about. It is also about personal accountability, and helping others be accountable for their own actions and how they impact on those around them.

So……. Back to the original question. Values or Virtues?
Principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life;
Consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of
Behaviour showing high moral standards;
The sense of moral excellence. Virtue can also mean excellence in general. One of your virtues might be your generous willingness to help out your friends.

I don’t mind what we want to call them. But it is important that we create a place of work that is safe and where the majority (I’m not naïve, I’d like to say everyone) want to do the right thing. Our next generation workers are expecting it, and it is our job to deliver it. But, get this….., it makes commercial sense. Companies who embrace civility and genuinely understand that an integral part of working is being kind and that everyone needs to know our purpose, understanding what we are here to do and how we want to behave, are doing well. They are the leaders in our modern world.