Discussion Thread

  • 1.  How to Keep the Workplace Civil?

    Posted 09-23-2020 12:05 PM

    Good Morning, 

    I do not always know what my colleagues are dealing with behind the frame on video calls.  (They could be facing personal issues at home, yet wearing a public face during work hours to get the job done.)

    In consideration of this unknown, do you have an approach to being cordial with your fellow coworkers in virtual work meetings?

    Your thoughts are most appreciated.

    Jameelah Ingram P.E., M.ASCE
    Washington DC

  • 2.  RE: How to Keep the Workplace Civil?

    Posted 09-28-2020 01:03 PM
    In my opinion, familiarity with the processes and methods of body language knowledge can be effective in guiding the type of sessions and making the most of it.
    Creating a culture and awareness of these practices can be as effective in guiding the type of meetings to achieve the goal as in face-to-face meetings.

    Reza Mokarramaydenlou, Ph.D., C.Eng, P.E., S.E., M.ASCE
    Structural Engineering and Seismic rehabilitation Consultant
    Author of the book in Elsevier

  • 3.  RE: How to Keep the Workplace Civil?

    Posted 02-11-2021 01:29 PM
    I also just came across this link elsewhere on ASCE. I think it fits this topic very well.


    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 4.  RE: How to Keep the Workplace Civil?

    Posted 02-11-2021 01:30 PM
    A phrase I think we have all heard a variation on by now is "Always be kind. Everybody you meet is fighting some kind of battle that you know nothing about."

    I think this is a great question because it already shows that you care about your co-workers. If we are going to assume that "everyone we interact with is facing some kind of struggle", then maybe the solution is to simply try and be attentive and patient with others, the way we would all like others to treat us on any given day. "Be the type of person that you would like to be around yourself." 

    Some examples that I try to implement. 
    For people I manage, I try to check in periodically just to determine how their work is going or if they need any support from me. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to directly always inquire about their personal lives, but I can at least try to help them if their personal lives start to impact them at work. This includes being understanding if someone needs last minute sick days, even if it is for their mental health and not an acute illness. 

    For people who manage me, I try to have work finished in advance of when they need it. I also try to establish general check ins so that they know when to expect something from me and have some flexibility to plan their own schedule. One of my bosses has to pick up his kids from school every day around 2. Yet I know he always wants to be connected online. I try to not ask non-critical questions to him between 2-3 so that he can focus on his life outside of work during that time. 

    When you work with others for a long enough time, I think we usually can see when they are having a good day and when they are having a bad day. Simply trying to help simplify your interactions with them on bad days goes a long way - whether that is quietly handling work they assign, or trying to be understanding about a deadline or mistake that may have been made. 

    My answer is a bit of a ramble, but I hope it helps at least bring this discussion in a productive and useful direction. There are many ways to positively impact those around us, and being generally cheerful, kind, and patient with them are always great places to start.

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 5.  RE: How to Keep the Workplace Civil?

    Posted 02-12-2021 12:55 PM
    In good times and bad, I always ask, " with everything else you have on your plate/everything else you are doing, when do you think you will have time to work on this and do you have an idea on how long it will take."  (note - I learned "everything on your plate" doesn't translate to all cultures).  This puts the other person in control, and acknowledges I don't know what other assignments they are working on, and upcoming commitments, days off, training, etc.  

    We try to keep cameras on.

    Twice a week, we open our group meeting with a general question -- for Tuesday it will be - how are you dealing with our snow.  We use about 15 minutes to just talk about general life.  Questions have included favorite cookie recipes, favorite TV shows, family pets, first job (this is a great one), etc.  This helps everyone remember we are all people and we all need to be kind.  

    Also remember there is zoom fatigue.  Now more than ever, it is important to have organized meetings that are SHORT.  It is so easy to ozone out in a zoom meeting.  They are just boring.

    Susan Everett P.E., M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Seattle WA

  • 6.  RE: How to Keep the Workplace Civil?

    Posted 02-12-2021 04:02 PM

    This is an interesting topic. Christopher is very humble, his post is very good – including citing the ASCE Source. In the Source, the young engineer named Principe has come up with 5 keys to develop good engineering work relationship. Some of such awareness seems to have its origin in the grass root activist/political movement perhaps emanated from the frustrations associated with – frequently termed toxic work environment.

    Many such recommendations and prescriptions – abound in websites and articles – say what should be done, rather than what can be done, given a certain constraint or circumstance. One cannot stress enough the requirement of mutual respect, understanding and empathy – because all are in the same sort of battle . . .

    The fact is that one's life and working relationship are conditioned by many constraints. Perhaps a line from a famous song of Frank Sinatra (1915 – 1998) is appropriate in understanding this. It says: . . . life is a beautiful thing as long as I hold the string . . . But life's strings are many, and it is impossible for one to hold them all. Some of us hold the strings of other peoples' lives tight and strong. Some others do so light and loose. It only makes sense that those who hold other peoples' strings tight and strong feel responsible, and refrain from playing God.





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    Dr. Dilip Barua, Ph.D, P.Eng, M. ASCE
    Vancouver, BC, Canada

  • 7.  RE: How to Keep the Workplace Civil?

    Posted 02-16-2021 01:16 PM
    Thank you @Jameelah Ingram for starting this important conversation. We will be talking about building and maintaining professional relationships with coworkers during this week's Thursdays @ 3 virtual roundtable. You can register here. I hope you are able to join us!  ​​

    Tirza Austin
    Manager, Online Community
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive
    Reston, VA 20191