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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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Introduction This chapter offers, by way of conclusion, a discussion of the value of understand- ing professions as communities of discursive practice (Barge & Little, 2008) that embody and monitor guidelines for professional conduct, inviting discipline and self-correction on the par t of professionals, thus defining pr ofessional ethics as inherently constitutive of professional identity—and inherently communicative. Professions are integral par ts of the mar ketplace and public spher e (Sullivan, 2005); professionals engage the responsibility of a story of excellence and profes- sional 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 pro- motes the good of “profession” by protecting and promoting goods of productiv- ity, place, and persons. By embracing professional civility as a communicative virtue of and for professional practice, professionals can attend to these goods that are his- torically associated with professions and given particular form in today’s histori- cal moment, ther eby countering the decline of pr ofessions and r esponding constructively to challenges facing them. Conclusion Protecting and Promoting Professions c_ch 6 thru end_t5 10/12/2012 9:02 AM Page 195 The Ongoing Story of the Professions As discussed earlier, the term “profession” has historically carried with it expecta- tions for behavior of members of a socially acknowledged set of distinguished occu- pational categories, beginning with clergy and extending to the other vocations to which “profession” eventually came to refer. The term “professional” in the sense...

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