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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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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 pr ofessions are engaged as mean- ing-filled human action (Arnett & H olba, in press) relevant to human life and flourishing as a foundation for an ethic of professional civility. Kimball offered a history of the pr ofessional ideal in America, and S ullivan reminded us of the importance of service and civic engagement as elements of pr ofessional 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 exis- tential realities shaping the human condition, to which professions as communi- ties of practice offer a response, guided by an understanding of the good life. I n this context, professional life becomes an arena for the operation of the commu- nicative virtue of professional civility, which protects and promotes the goods of profession(s) through constructive interpersonal interaction. An exploration of the literature on professions and professionals supports the idea that the professions constitute a practice with a history that defines a tradition 2 The Tradition of Profession as Practice b_Intro thru 5_t5 10/12/2012 9:04 AM Page 45 in the MacIntyrean sense (Borden, 2007; MacIntyre, 2007). The...

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