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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 3: The Communicative Virtue of Civility


Introduction The topic of civility has held a pr ominent place in the cultural imagination of the West since medieval times. Civility has been associated with politeness, manners, and etiquette. Furthermore, it has been associated with the behavior found in r oyal courts (hence the etymology of the word “courtesy”), with morality, and with a par- ticular class-based understanding of appropriate behavior (Carter, 1998; Davetian, 2007; Forni, 2002, 2008; Kingwell, 1995). In our contemporary moment, civility continues to hold the interest of the general public and scholars alike, and is addressed from multiple disciplinary perspectives. From humanities scholar P. M. Forni (2002, 2008), psychiatrist M. Scott Peck (1994), and legal scholar Steven Carter (1998), who are responsible for renewing popular interest in the topic of civility in the late twen- tieth and early twenty-first centuries, to Giovinella Gonthier and Kevin Morrisey (2002) and Rod L. Troester and Cathy Sargent Mester (2007), who address civility in the world of business, to communication theorists R onald C. Arnett and P at Arneson (1999), sociologists Edward Shils (1997) and Benet Davetian (2007), and philosopher Mark Kingwell (1995, 2000), who offer scholarly appr oaches to the topic, civility remains very much a part of our collective social imagination, a term signifying the interactive ideal for personal conduct in the public sphere. 3 The Communicative Virtue of Civility b_Intro thru 5_t5 10/12/2012 9:04 AM Page 63 In this chapter, I offer a selective treatment of civility as it has been understood in...

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