Strengthening a Culture Of Respect and Engagement: SCORE

Challenges to Workgroup Cultures

One rude encounter can ruin your day.

You expect people to behave professionally at work. And to a very large extent, they do. People share information or give direction without being pushy. Importantly, their words, gestures, facial expressions convey respect. People accept you as part of a community with a shared mission that may be treating patients, creating a project, or developing new knowledge. They act as if you are all working together on this mission and everyone has something to contribute.

But not always. Some encounters are really unpleasant. And those events have an out-sized impact. Even when they occur rarely, they can shape the workgroup’s culture.

  • First, by violating expectations rudeness grabs everyone’s attention.
  • Second, rudeness has an emotional impact. People react by feeling angry, ashamed, or surprised. Those feelings linger long after the encounter. People often lie awake ruminating over the event.
  • Third, rudeness prompts people to respond rudely. These reactions can spiral out of control. It becomes self-perpetuating.
  • Fourth, when a rude action is allowed to stand, a workgroup becomes a place where people act that way. It gives permission to behave badly towards one another.

Leaders cannot rely on these situations to fix themselves. Recovering from a culture of disrespect requires deliberate action.

The workgroup process, Strengthening a Culture Of Respect and Engagement (SCORE), was developed to help workgroups overcome forces that weaken their culture of civility and respect.

SCORE targets the workgroup culture. It helps workgroups to build on the positive to improve how they work together.

SCORE Overview

SCORE occurs through five sessions, scheduled 3 or 4 weeks apart. SCORE invites all workgroup members to participate in the sessions. SCORE begins with an employee survey to identify the workgroup’s strengths and challenges and to provide a benchmark for assessing progress.

Session 0: Getting Ready

SCORE works as a facilitated group process. The primary condition for SCORE is that members of a workgroup want to strengthen their social climate to be more respectful and accepting. It need not be a unanimous decision, but it requires people to actively participate in the process. Workgroups implement SCORE; SCORE is not done to a workgroup. When possible, someone from the organization (but not from the work unit) co-facilitates with the SCORE facilitator.

Session 1: Getting Started

The first session introduces the core ideas of SCORE. The facilitator informs participants of the process’s aims and expectations. The group develops ground rules to assure psychological safety and confidentiality. The activities develop participants’ capacity to make sense of social cues in day-to-day interactions.

Session 2: Power of Reciprocity

A major focus of Session 2 is appreciating the power of reciprocity for good or ill. Although people often respond rudely to rudeness, they often respond kindly to kindness. This session emphasizes the potential of actively promoting respect as a means of strengthening the workgroup culture.

Session 3: Responding to Disrespect

In addition to promoting the positive, SCORE develops participants’ capacity to respond to the negative. Session 3 considers options when people behave badly towards oneself or towards others. The activities consider issues of power—what changes when the other person has a position of authority or influence? How can members of the workgroup support one another in responding effectively to disrespect?

Session 4: Working Regardless

Ideally, people trust and respect everyone they encounter at work. However, responsibilities at times requires them to work with people whose competence or good intentions they doubt. Session 4 explores this conundrum, considering practical options that give priority to the workgroup’s mission. Although people may wish that they could avoid such situations entirely, at times they are unavoidable.

Session 5: Next Steps

Strengthen a workgroup culture is a way of life, not a one-time miracle cure. In Session 5 participants develop practices, rituals, games, and meeting agenda items that keep respect as a matter of concern and action.

The Objective

The outcome of SCORE is increased respect among coworkers as well as a greater capacity for the group to address future challenges to its community. Progress is assess through a baseline and follow-up survey as well as through institutional data on complaints, retention, and incidents.

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