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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 6: Protecting and Promoting Productivity


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Protecting and Promoting Productivity


From Kimball’s (1995) history of the professional ideal in America, we understand the good work of professions as connected to the good life for human beings. Sullivan (2005), Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi, and Damon (2001), and others articulate the continued vital role of the professions in their essential contributions to society’s flourishing. Professional practice is its own defined good as an expression of the tradition of practice; in the manifestation of that practice as enacted by professionals in a particular place, the tradition’s good emerges as a form of productivity. The productivity of professional practice as the finished or ongoing outcome of professional activity in relation to others—clients and the larger society—contributes to the well-being of the larger human community; productivity is the primary focus of the professional ideal, and hence the primary element to be protected and promoted through the communicative virtue of professional civility. Sullivan noted, “In genuine professional work, the craft itself is a focus of attention” (p. 21). The tradition of profession as practice responds to the historical moment in its recognition of the limits of the human condition, in which labor, work, and action are required as existential activities, and through its embrace of hope rooted in an understanding of profession as craft, marked by love of the work carried out through reflective, thoughtful organizational citizenship. ← 133 | 134 →

Work and the Human Condition

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