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Professional Civility

Communicative Virtue at Work

Janie M. Harden Fritz

Winner of the Everett Lee Hunt Award 2014.
Winner of the NCA Clifford G. Christians Ethics Research Award 2013 from the Carl Couch Center for Social and Internet Research


The crisis of incivility plaguing today’s workplace calls for an approach to communication that restores respect and integrity to interpersonal encounters in organizational life. Professional civility is a communicative virtue that protects and promotes productivity, one’s place of employment, and persons with whom we carry out our tasks in the workplace. Drawn from the history of professions as dignified occupations providing valuable contributions to the human community, an understanding of civility as communicative virtue, and MacIntyre’s treatment of practices, professional civility supports the «practice» of professions in contemporary organizations. A communicative ethic of professional civility requires attentiveness to the task at hand, support of an organization’s mission, and appropriate relationships with others in the workplace. Professional civility fosters communicative habits of the heart that extend beyond the walls of the workplace, encouraging a return to the service ethic that remains an enduring legacy of the professions in the United States.
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Chapter 2: The Tradition of Profession as Practice

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2

The Tradition of Profession as Practice

Introduction

This chapter grounds an understanding of professions in the scholarship of Kimball (1995), Sullivan (2005), and Arendt (1958), in a move toward a communicative phenomenology of work in which the tasks of professions are engaged as meaning-filled human action (Arnett & Holba, in press) relevant to human life and flourishing as a foundation for an ethic of professional civility. Kimball offered a history of the professional ideal in America, and Sullivan reminded us of the importance of service and civic engagement as elements of professional identity, focusing on “professionalism” as an implicit virtue associated with professions, in his treatment of the crisis and promise of professionalism in America. Their work provides evidence that professions define communities of practice with a tradition and history. Arendt offered an understanding of labor, work, and action as existential realities shaping the human condition, to which professions as communities of practice offer a response, guided by an understanding of the good life. In this context, professional life becomes an arena for the operation of the communicative virtue of professional civility, which protects and promotes the goods of profession(s) through constructive interpersonal interaction.

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