12/21/2017 11:13 EST | Updated 12/21/2017 11:13 EST

In 2018, Let's Bring Civility Back To The Workplace

This year, it seemed like each day brought more news of inappropriate behaviour. There appears to be a common thread: it often occurs in the workplace.

Talking coworkers walking along corridor in office
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Talking coworkers walking along corridor in office

On New Year's Eve, one can often hear the sweet melodies of Auld Lang Syne. Known for being played during the Christmas truce at the beginning of the First World War, the song evokes sentiments of reconciliation and compassion. Throughout my life, I have always made a point to treat people with consideration and kindness. Life is too short to make enemies, or to engage in fearmongering. However, as I reflect on events of the past year, my heart feels heavy.

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In 2017, we bore witness to an unsettling social divide, and it seemed like each day brought more news of inappropriate behaviour. There appears to be a common thread linking this misconduct: it often occurs in the workplace. Whether in the White House, on a film set or in a post-secondary institution, everyone deserves to feel safe and respected in their place of work. Practicing civility in the workplace is not going to fix the world, but I believe it is a good place to start.

In 2018, let's go back to basics of human decency.

One of the most insightful books I've ever read is All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. Published in 1986, the book is a collection of essays that delve into topics one is expected to have learned in kindergarten, such as patience, sharing and respecting others. Fulghum approaches these topics through a lens of adulthood, and how they are presumed to inform a balanced, mature adult.

I fear these fundamental values have been lost.

Somewhere along the way, I fear these fundamental values have been lost. Unfortunately, the advent of social media seems to have given some of us the false permission to mistreat others from behind the comfort of a computer screen or smartphone. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) tells us that seven per cent of Canadian adults aged 18 years and older report having been a victim of cyberbullying at some point in their lifetime. Who is responsible for this disturbing shift?

I believe that family plays a key role in helping shape one's values and moral code. My family is my foundation, and the thing that keeps me grounded. Of course, families come in all shapes and sizes. I firmly believe there is a critical importance in how we are raised, and who we surround ourselves with. Loved ones are meant to unconditionally lift us up.

The top-rated television series This is Us chronicles the trials and tribulations of the Pearson family. Although each family member encounters their own challenges, they always return to one another for support. I do not think the show's popularity is a coincidence; viewers aspire to these kinds of strong familial connections. Benevolence begins at home, whether it comes in the form of blood relatives, or a chosen family.

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While he was campaigning for the Republican nomination, and again in his inauguration speech in January 1989, George H.W. Bush often spoke of a "thousand points of light." He likens these lights to community organizations and altruistic actions that help inspire goodness and prosperity. Anyone who knows me is well aware that I am a proud Liberal; however, I believe that we should all be on the same side when it comes to common decency. Nearly 30 years later, Bush's words still resonate with me on account of their timeliness. We need to reignite these lights.

When I come to work each day, I feel very fortunate to enter into a courteous, respectful environment. My colleagues truly feel like a form of extended family. Recently named one of Toronto's top employers for a fourth consecutive year, Ryerson University is deeply committed to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). By embracing these fundamental values, the university is able to offer everyone a safe place to work and learn. Community members of all creeds, ethnicities, and classes can be seen collaborating and, subsequently, propping each other up. Perhaps we are onto something.

Ultimately, I believe that we all need to make a united stand for a civil society. My hope for the coming year is that we each take a small step towards making Canada's workplaces more compassionate. There are certain actions and behaviours that simply cannot be tolerated; we need to remember what it means to live with integrity. In the words of Auld Lang Syne, let's all enjoy a cup o' kindness in 2018.

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