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Notes from Civility Sessions at Iowa State University Extension Annual Conference

On September 12 I facilitated two breakout sessions on civility. Eighteen people attended each session. The session opened with Aretha Franklin’s song Respect. We used about 20 minutes for a quiz on how to deal civilly with some specific office situations, and then how respect, ethics and assertiveness contribute to civil behavior. We talked about respecting others is an extension of self-respect. The balance of each session was decided by those attending.

They chose to talk about
1. The irritation of cell phone use in public places
2. Cubicles, the difference among participants in how much noise they can ignore, how talking on the telephone can be intimidating or people resort to e-mail because it’s quiet when the telephone may be the better method of communication
3. The one-dimension of e-mail messages that appear curt but may not be the intention
4. E-mail messages to potential customers need to have some warmth that makes the recipient feel you care about the inquiry
5. Working with someone for a long time (familiarity) may breed contempt
6. How to repair, resolve or bring closure to damaged work relationships
7. How to deal with disrespect at meetings, particularly answering cell phones and e-mail on lap top computers; conversely, do pointless or unnecessary meetings beget people using lap tops to answer e-mail?
8. Receiving long tales of how busy a person is rather than just saying ‘no’ to another project
9. How to deal with difficult people in the workplace
10. How to proactively bring civility to your own office
11. The role of the ombudsmen office at Iowa State
12. Sexual harassment

At the end of the session, each person completed a survey that had 15 questions extracted from a Public Agenda Survey conducted in 2002 and a Baltimore Workplace Civility Study from 2000. I’ll compile the answers from ISU Extension staff and then compare them to the answers from those original studies and post those on this blog.

My notes from the sessions are pretty sketchy so those of you who attended may want to add topics we covered and I’ve missed. This list gives me topics for the future.