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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 8: Protecting and Promoting the Good of Persons


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Protecting and Promoting the Good of Persons


The history of professions laid out by Kimball (1995) and explored by Sullivan (2005) reveals a tradition within which work is part of a good and meaningful life for human beings. The good of others who are served by professionals endures within the tradition of profession(s), and if we understand professions to function along the lines of the craft model discussed by Sennett (2008), the good of others with whom professionals conduct their work is also an integral part of the professional ethos. For the professions in this historical moment, work is usually accomplished with, or in the presence of, other persons in an organizational setting who may occupy different roles or specialties, all of which come together to accomplish the work of the organization. The set of others relevant to professional work includes a range of persons sharing the physical or virtual interactive space within or under the auspices of a particular place.

From a perspective of professional civility, we engage others at work in ways that honor the institution as the party to whom work relationships are accountable (Arnett, Fritz, & Bell, 2009; Fritz, in press-c), and we protect the dignity of persons by differentiating public and private spheres of life (Arnett, 2006). What this differentiation means will vary from person to person and from relationship ← 173 | 174 → to relationship. As will be evident, the good of...

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