Embracing Civility

The REAL Healthcare Reform!

Tag: self-awareness

Hating Your Job? Are You the Workplace Grouch?

“So, how was your day?” is a question you may be asked, well, every day. Do you answer honestly? Do you gloss over the stressful moments and face-palms? Or do you answer by focusing almost entirely on them? Maybe you just respond with something like “It’s good, now that it’s over.”

The vast majority of workers are not satisfied with their jobs. This is not necessarily a matter of the grass being greener somewhere -anywhere- else. The overwhelming issue contributing to dissatisfaction is not usually compensation, job duties, career opportunities, or even hours worked.

Taken alone, devoid of all the aggravating accoutrements, you might actually enjoy the job you hold. After all, didn’t you seek out and actively pursue this position? Remember how great the first few days on the job felt? You probably felt proud of yourself for landing that first interview, then beating out the competition and telling all your family and friends about how the hiring manager loved your resume/work ethic/test score/shoes.

Well, what happened? Fast forward five years: you’ve been slogging it out for what seems like a lifetime and dread walking in the door every morning. You snatch glimpses of the clock at work and sigh when only a few minutes pass between glances. No amount of will or wishing makes it tick any faster.

In many cases you can blame it on the workload, low pay, lack of promotion potential, and weak coffee in the break-room. But do those things really make you loathe your job? Lots of people love their low paying jobs. Lots of people work hard in dead end jobs. Lots of people suffer weak coffee. I’m not sure that’s why the workforce is not satisfied.

But there’s another big one: what about your workplace environment? Your coworkers, your customers, your bosses. How do they make you feel? Do you look forward to seeing them every day? If you’re like most, you have a work friend or two, and most everyone else you can stand, at least for a while. But there’s always one or two unkind folks that just drag the whole place down. Or what about that spiteful customer that just loves to watch you squirm? Doesn’t that make you just want to throw whatever’s in your arms straight to the ground and stomp out for good?

I submit thus the reason why you hate your job. Negativity has struck, at least in your own head, but maybe even the entire workplace is infected with it (kind of like the stomach bug passed around at the last Christmas party).  Maybe (probably), you and everyone around you already know this. So, what’s the big deal? Isn’t everyone negative at work? That may seem to be a legitimate excuse. Everyone hates their job, so why shouldn’t I? Guess what? You are part of the problem!


Well, here’s your dose of antidote to the poison that ails you. Civility. Yes, civility. What is it? And should it matter in the slightest? Most people equate it to being polite and meek. Something expected of you as a child. But that is not really accurate- it is a mature and self-respecting state of being. Here are a few other things it isn’t: a desire to create a faux pleasant atmosphere at your own expense. Civility is not about letting aggressive people stand on your exposed soft parts.

A couple more things that it is: self-control, self-reflection, maturity, taking responsibility for yourself, managing your export. Export in this sense means the manner in which you present yourself, speak to others and non-verbally communicate. Imagine how much better you would feel if you controlled the environment around you, especially pertaining to those negative people that bring you down. They’ve turned you to the dark side! Get back on track by retaking the initiative and choosing your own path.

I don’t have a personally relatable anecdote for each and every person out there who needs to learn or become reacquainted with civility. But I have a guide for you, and a good one at that. It’s called Get the Grouch Out! How Embracing Civility Can Banish Bad Behaviors and Create a More Respectful and Productive Workplace.


Here are some of the things you should be able to internalize and practice by reading this guidebook:

  • Learn to self-reflect and self-manage.
  • Focus on your integrity.
  • Recognize how you present yourself to others.
  • Control your negative moods.
  • Deal with difficult people.
  • Maintain professional relationships.
  • Communicate properly with a team.
  • Fix structural workplace problems from within.

As a whole, the guide will show you that to empower yourself with personal control is to be in a civil state of being. It shows that adhering to a method of personal control and owning your own path to happiness and success is a gift everyone can and should give to themselves right now. Go get it for yourself now on Kindle, and take your workplace back!

Living with Integrity and Broken Tacos!


Family dinners with my kindergarten-aged twins are usually a raucous good time, and this week’s “Taco Tuesday” promised nothing less . . . until the taco shell broke.

Maybe I made the shells too crispy.  Maybe the meat was too moist.  Maybe Dylan was over-tired.  Maybe an offensive breeze knocked a kite out of the sky on Jupiter.

Whatever the reason . . . Dylan (the oldest by a minute) suffered a complete emotional breakdown at the sight of his exploded taco.  He bolted from the table and with the grace of a trained superhero, flew through the bedroom air and landed with a thud on his bed.  Face down. Sobbing. Convulsively.

“I don’t deserve to be in this family anymore!” He wailed.

“What the heck are you talking about?” I asked.

“I’ve been lying to you.” He confessed. Snot and tears soaked his pillow.

“I tell you every day that I was good in school and that I don’t get in trouble, but I dooooo. I get in trouble every single daaaaaaay.”

Hearing this confession simultaneously broke my heart and made me smile.  He just learned an important lesson about living with integrity.  And he learned it at age 5.  Wow!  I can’t help but be impressed.

Integrity can be a difficult concept to pin down, even for adults.  Most people think of it as honesty—or being able to tell the truth—but it’s even deeper than that.  Although Dylan’s confession was about telling us a series of lies, he could have gone on forever with the charade had it not been for his integrity.

Integrity is when your values match your behaviors.

Honesty must be a value my son just realized he holds.  And he realized that his behaviors did not match that value.  So the taco broke, the confession spilled and (after a long conversation about lying) his integrity was restored.

Fortunately, living with integrity doesn’t have to be so dramatic!  And you don’t have to wait until your taco breaks to figure it out!

Just think about the things that are important to you.  Family?  Career?  Reputation?  Self-respect?  Honesty?  Fairness?  Independence? And then think about all of the ways you behave (or want to behave) to reflect those values.

It’s not always easy to live with integrity. We all face distractions, conflicting desires and confusing motives. Dylan’s actions were motivated by his desire to use the computer. (Being “bad” in school usually leads to a loss of computer privileges in our house!)

What’s keeping you from living with integrity?

Does it really matter if you live with integrity? Why or why not?

What, if any, are the consequences of NOT living with integrity?

Do you think living with integrity is more important in healthcare professionals? Why or why not?

Let us know your thoughts! We love to hear from you!

As the old birds sing . . .

birdI’m always fascinated by the “words of wisdom” that come from other cultures. For instance, in Italy they say “Cercare il pelo nell’ uovo,” which means to “look for the hair in the egg,” or in other words, to find fault or nit-pick!

In Spanish, I’m drawn to “Poco a poco se anda lejos.” This translates to “Little by little, one goes far.”

And now, thanks to Linda Leekley, my new favorite Norwegian expression is “Some dei gamle sungo, so kveda dei unge.” In her latest blog post over at In the Know, Linda translates it to “As the old birds sing, so do the young ones tweet.”

And as it turns out, it’s a good lesson for some of us “Old Bird” nurses!

Linda writes: 

Blog Quote from Linda Leekley at In the Know.

Thanks for the great lesson, Linda! 

Is it Possible to Be Pro-Bullying?

October is National Anti-Bullying Month, but anti-bullying campaigns are not limited to just this month.  It’s respectable and noble to be “anti-bullying” these days.  I dare say it’s even trendy. The opposite, pro-bullying, just doesn’t exist. At least no one will admit it.

So why are there still bullies? If we are all so emphatically against it . . . and no one is for it, how can it persist, especially in healthcare?

The fact is that the pro-bullies are the bullies themselves. Bullies desperately try to hold on to their bullying ways because without bullying, they have no power. Or so they think. You see, a bully usually acts out as a means to gain or retain power. Bullying usually comes from a person in a position of power (real or imagined) and involves an abuse or misuse of this power.

Do you work with a “pro-bullying” person? Is there a possibility that you are “pro-bullying” without even knowing it? Take this quick “self-awareness” quiz. Self-awareness is when you realize that, although you are not the center of the universe, everything you say and do can have an impact on others. Bullies tend to act out in a way that demonstrates a lack of self-awareness.

Imagine this conversation between a workplace bully and her target.

Target: It seems like you are just waiting for me to do something wrong so that you can criticize me.

Bully: That’s not true. I’m just trying to make sure you are doing things safely. And it’s not criticism. I’m trying to show you how to do things the right way.

Target: But, I’m doing things the way I was taught and I AM safe.

Bully: Well, maybe you were taught wrong.

Target: Fine, if you are trying to teach me, then can you please do it in private? I don’t think it’s good for the company’s reputation when you yell at me in front of patients and our co-workers.

Bully: I wish I had time to take a break and explain your mistakes to you every time you make one. But, I am busy actually working.

Target: I heard you tell our Supervisor that I was responsible for the spill that caused Mrs. G to fall the other day. You know that’s not true. Are you trying to get me fired?

Bully: All I know is I didn’t do it and you were the only other person in that area that day. It must have been you. I’m just doing my best to keep the patients safe.

This “bully” does not see herself as a bully. She has no self-awareness of the impact of her words and actions on herself, her workplace and her co-workers. She sees herself as smarter, better and faster than everyone else. She has an inflated sense of her own worth and importance in the workplace. She thinks her “way” of doing things is the best or only way. She believes that causing a co-worker to look bad makes herself look good. Unfortunately, this is the case with most bullies.

Bullies have their own unspoken pro-bullying campaign going on. Can Pro-Bullies be turned around? You bet! Bullying is a habit . . . and habits can change. It starts with self-awareness.

If you have one or more “Pro-Bullies” in your workplace, download this printable version of the Self-Awareness quiz and give it to your supervisor for distribution. If you are the supervisor, consider putting copies of the quiz in with paychecks or other announcements. Leave a pile in the break room. Pin it up in the locker room.

If you want to take it a step further, consider implementing a full scale civility training program like the one that goes along with the book, “The REAL Healthcare Reform.”

Tell us what you did or are doing to transform the pro-bullies in your workplace!

What’s Your Fire Ant Personality?

I was ambushed by an angry mob of ferocious fire ants over the weekend. And, by “ambushed” I mean I suffered three tiny, but excruciating bites. And by “angry mob” I mean I stepped into their home and they failed to welcome me with tea and cookies!

As I scratched, iced and cortisone’d my assaulted ankles I decided I should probably do a Google search to see if I needed to worry about any other symptoms or complications. Turns out—no! I didn’t seem to be allergic and I didn’t suffer enough bites to warrant a trip to the ER! Phew!

Then I stumbled on a study published a few years ago that made me think a little differently about the angry beasts. It seems they have some pretty interesting and distinct personalities!

  • About one third of the colony will play dead during an attack (from a human foot or another colony of fire ants).
  • Another third will run away.
  • The final group will stay and fight to the death. (These are the chumps that got me!)

The first group is made up of the youngest ants. After an attack they can be found curled up just like a dead ant. Then moments later they uncurl and walk away.

Middle aged ants tend to flee, which scientist think may be a tactic to protect the queen.

The eldest ants are aggressive and attack furiously. One researcher points out, “All worker ants are females, and so it’s the cranky old ladies who are the ones fighting to the death.”

Looking at the structure of the fire ant colony reminded me a little bit of the social structures found in most healthcare workplaces. It resembles how different groups deal with the pervasive culture of incivility.

New graduates curl up and play dead when attacked. They may be unsure of how to respond or may fear the consequences that may come from defending themselves.

The more experienced workers tend to cope by ignoring the problem or retreating.

You can draw your own conclusions about the third group!

The interesting thing about the comparison though is that the fire ants act this way out of a primal instinct to protect their home and their family (aka colony) from danger. That makes sense. They are tiny little creatures trying to survive in a giant’s land. But, why do we do it?

Think about the fire ants the next time you are at work. Do you play dead, retreat or fight to the death? And, why? If you play dead, you’re giving the aggressor the confirmation he or she needs to feel powerful. If you ignore the problem or retreat, you may inadvertently perpetuate the problem by “protecting the queen.”

If you’re the one on the attack, think about what you are working so hard to defend. I can assure you, it’s not as important as your home or your entire family (like it is for the fire ants).


What Makes Assertiveness So Complicated?

Our friend and fellow nurse, Beth Boynton, RN, MS (author of Confident Voices: The Nurses’ Guide to Improving Communication & Creating Positive Workplaces) opens a really great discussion in her new blog, Bleeding Hearts, Shark Infested Waters Meet the Relativity and Complexity of Assertiveness.

In the article, Beth writes,

“Assertiveness is way more complicated than being firm or just speaking up for yourself . . .”

This is so true—and definitely worth further exploration.

It’s easy for someone to say, “Well, you just have to be more assertive.” But, as Beth points out, it’s much easier said than done.

Beth outlines at least six reasons why being assertive is so complicated.  A few highlights include that assertiveness:

“. . . involves individual developmental qualities such as self-esteem, self-awareness, and self-efficacy.”

“. . . takes place in the context of relationships.”

Is influenced by, “gender, age, ethnic and personality differences.”

I think that another point to add is that assertiveness may not always be consistent for people. In other words, a person may be able to behave assertively in certain situations but not in others. For example, you may find it easy to behave assertively when you are in familiar surroundings, or your “comfort zone,” but have trouble finding your assertiveness in unfamiliar surroundings, like at a new job or when being “floated” to a new floor.

Here is a chart from our book, “The REAL Healthcare Reform: How Embracing Civility Can Beat Back Burnout and Revive Your Healthcare Career.” that compares assertive behaviors to passive and aggressive behaviors.




Description You put everyone’s
needs first—while ignoring your own.
You stand up for your rights while showing respect for the rights of others. You stand up for
your own rights—
but violate the
rights of others.
How You View Your
Self and Others
You may think:I am not important.

I don’t matter.

You believe:Everyone is important.

We are all equal.

You tell others:Your feelings are not important.

You don’t matter.

I’m superior.

Verbal Habits and Styles You:Apologize frequently.

Speak in a soft or unsure voice.

You:Use “I” statements (to take ownership of your own actions).

Speak in a firm voice.

You:Use “you” statements (to blame or accuse others).

Speak in a loud voice.

Non-Verbal Habits and  Styles You:Avoid eye contact.

Stand with stooped shoulders.

You have:Direct, non-threatening eye contact.

Relaxed posture.

You:Stare with accusing eyes.

Have a tense posture, with clenched fists.

or Results
Low self-esteem.Not respected by others. High self-esteem.Self-respect.

Respected by others.

Low self-esteem.Disrespected.



Do you think it’s possible to behave assertively in every situation and within every relationship? If not, what are your challenges? What do you think you can do to overcome those challenges?

Leave us a comment! We’d love to hear from you!


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