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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 4: Professional Civility as Communicative Virtue at Work


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Professional Civility as Communicative Virtue at Work


The last three chapters addressed virtue ethics, the history of the professions as practice, and a conceptualization of civility as communicative virtue. This chapter situates civility as communicative virtue in the context of the organization, organizes and integrates material addressed in earlier chapters (primarily Chapters 2 and 3), and introduces the remaining conceptual coordinates of dialogic civility and organizational citizenship to the professional civility framework. I begin with a brief conceptual overview.

Professional civility encompasses civil communication in the workplace emerging from a constructive orientation to tasks, the host organization or institution, and others in the workplace as positive goods integral to the existence and identity of profession(s) in our contemporary historical moment. Professional civility is a communicative virtue protecting and promoting goods of productivity, place, persons, and profession that are integral to, and emerge from, the tradition of profession as practice. Professional civility is practiced as a professional communication ethic as practitioners carry these goods of profession into everyday interaction in the workplace. In this sense, professional civility is a philosophy of communication integral to a constructive philosophy of work life. A culture of professional ← 87 | 88 → civility emerges when professional civility becomes the norm for an organization’s interactive routines.

The historic understanding of “profession” has undergone many shifts over the centuries, yielding an expanded scope of occupations categorized as “professions,” or seeking at least the...

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