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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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Conclusion: Protecting and Promoting Professions


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Protecting and Promoting Professions


This chapter offers, by way of conclusion, a discussion of the value of understanding professions as communities of discursive practice (Barge & Little, 2008) that embody and monitor guidelines for professional conduct, inviting discipline and self-correction on the part of professionals, thus defining professional ethics as inherently constitutive of professional identity—and inherently communicative. Professions are integral parts of the marketplace and public sphere (Sullivan, 2005); professionals engage the responsibility of a story of excellence and professional identity through their enactment of profession as practice in word and deed. The focus here will rest on a call for communicative praxis that protects and promotes the good of “profession” by protecting and promoting goods of productivity, place, and persons. By embracing professional civility as a communicative virtue of and for professional practice, professionals can attend to these goods that are historically associated with professions and given particular form in today’s historical moment, thereby countering the decline of professions and responding constructively to challenges facing them. ← 195 | 196 →

The Ongoing Story of the Professions

As discussed earlier, the term “profession” has historically carried with it expectations for behavior of members of a socially acknowledged set of distinguished occupational categories, beginning with clergy and extending to the other vocations to which “profession” eventually came to refer. The term “professional” in the sense of “occupational” came into common usage in the late eighteenth and early...

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