Ten Ways to Embrace Civility in the Healthcare Workplace

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

In a recent HealthStream webinar, How to Banish the Bully Who Wreaks Havoc in Healthcare, Linda Leekley, CEO and founder of In the Know, explains, “A serious problem that affects just about everyone in healthcare is incivility in the workplace.” She adds, “Incivility obviously can happen in any industry, but it is particularly rampant in healthcare, and in our industry, the consequences can be deadly.”

When civility is the norm, however, the atmosphere at work is a source of energy and inspiration for those who are in it. Leekley shares that “Healthcare workers who embrace civility are less likely to quit or job hop and are less likely to burnout, bully, or ‘eat their young.’ Why? Because they are building relationships built on courtesy, respect, consideration and the golden rule, and that’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

Leekley offers ten ways to embrace civility at work. Consider sharing these tips with your team, and challenge everyone to incorporate at least one or two of them into their daily routine on job.

  1. Remain patient and calm. Leekley offers that “You may be tempted to fight fire with fire when a co-worker is rude and disrespectful, but by remaining patient and calm, you contain even the crankiest critic.”
  2. Pick your battles. Leekley admits, “It would be disingenuous to agree with everyone on every issue; it’s just not possible.” She insists, “But when you and a co-worker do disagree, make sure the issue is really important to you,” and adds, “Don’t fall in to the trap of disagreeing with someone just because she wants to be right.”
  3. You can’t always be right. Know that “If you’re always right, you’re probably doing something wrong.” Leekley advises, “Try to separate your knowledge from your opinions. Allow others to have their beliefs and opinions.”
  4. Listen. Rather than listening, “Most people spend that time figuring out what they are going to say when the person stops talking.” Leekley offers that “Being a good listener is a strong display of a commitment to embrace incivility.”
  5. Refrain from gossip always. An important gesture in support of civility is “to just say no to workplace rumors, hearsay, and innuendo.”
  6. Say please and thank you. Leekley laments that like many people in healthcare you may have experienced that “Good manners have fallen out of fashion at your workplace.” If this is the case, she recommends that you “Try becoming the role model for manners, then sit back and watch as others follow your lead.”
  7. Search for the good in everyone. Leekley reminds her audience that “You don’t have to like or even agree with people to get along with them.” To start, she suggests “Find one good thing in everyone you meet. You can mention it or keep it to yourself. But either way, it will change your perspective of difficult people and their behaviors.”
  8. Be flexible. Adopting this approach requires that you “Remain open to listening, to learning, and to changing even when change seems difficult or unnecessary.”
  9. Acknowledge your mistakes. It’s important that “If you make a mistake, own up to it right away.” Leekley instructs listeners to “Do what you can to reverse any effects of your mistake.” To achieve that, “Apologize with sincerity. Accept any criticism you receive as a result. Learn from your mistake and move on.”
  10. Say “up until now.” Number ten is Leekley’s favorite. She strongly advises that the best way to deal with incivility at work is to put three little words in front of any sentence that describes an issue or conflict you’re facing. What are those three words? They’re “up until now.” Here’s an example from the webinar where Leekley explains the effectiveness of using “up until now” further:

    “Imagine you’re having a problem with your co-worker Susan. She has made you her daily target throwing frequent snarky comments your way.

    First, assess how you feel about the situation and say to yourself, ‘Up until now, I have been reacting with anger every time Susan makes a rude comment,’ or let’s say someone else got a promotion that you thought you deserved and he’s been rubbing it in every chance he gets, you say to yourself, ‘Up until now, I have been feeling resentment toward Tom because he got that job and I didn’t.’

    No matter what the problem might be, by starting a sentence with ‘up until now,’ you immediately accomplish two things. First, you come clean about you have handled the issue so far and, second, there’s a tone of optimism that you can find a better, more civil way to move forward. So the next time you find yourself tangling with a co-worker, skip the sarcasm, anger and frustration by saying those three little words: ‘Up until now.’”

Access the complete webinar recording at

About Linda Leekley

Linda Leekley, CEO and founder of In the Know, began her nursing career in the research oncology department at Duke University Medical Center. She then followed her acute care experience with a year in home healthcare.

In 1998, Linda recognized that a void existed when it came to training options for nurse aides and caregivers. So she blended her nursing experience in both acute care and long-term care with her years as a clinical educator and the result was In the Know.

Linda is also the co-author of the book, “The Real Healthcare Reform: How Embracing Stability Can Beat Burnout and Revive Your Healthcare Career.” Published in 2012, the book continues to be used as a primer for stability training programs at healthcare organizations across the country.

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