Episode 057: Increasing Workplace Civility by Development and Practice of Core Values with Catherine Mattice

Catherine M. Mattice is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and she has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Chevron, the American Red Cross, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and non-profits. She has been published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared as an expert in major news outlets including NPR, FOX, NBC, ABC, USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Washington Times, Psychology Today and Bloomberg. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter, and one of the founders (and current president of) the National Workplace Bullying Coalition. In his foreword to her book, Back Off! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying @ Work, Ken Blanchard said it was “The most comprehensive and valuable handbook” on workplace bullying. BACK OFF, and her second book, “Seeking Civility : How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying”, are both available on Amazon.


  • Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey
  • Can you talk with us about some of the things that help to create that positive work environment and is it only up to the employees or does leadership play a big role as well?
  • How do you feel about customer experience on a global level?
  • What are some of the things you encourage organizations to do to create that kind of culture where people are feeling positive, where the energies are consistently up?
  • How do you stay motivated every day?
  • What is one online resource, website, tool or app that you absolutely cannot live without in your business?
  • What are some of the books that have had the biggest impact on you?
  • If you were sitting across the table from another business owner and they said to you that they feel they have great products and services but they lack the constantly motivated human capital, what’s the one piece of advice would you give them to have a successful business?
  • What is one thing in your life right now that you are really excited about – something that you are working on to develop yourself or people?
  • Where can our listeners find your information online?
  • What is one quote or saying that you live by or that inspires you in times of adversity?


  • Catherine Mattice shared that she was the director of Human Resources for a non-profit organization and found herself working with a bully and this guy and herself were both directors. They both reported directly to the President of the organization, he was not her manager. He was her peer but he was definitely a bully. He was an uber excessive micromanager, he yelled, he made it very clear if he didn’t like you, he was very difficult to work with. She personally felt bullied by this person and that was very exhausting, it was like every interaction with him was frustrating. It took a lot of courage to interact with them because you figured you’re going to be yelled at, it was just a very emotional experience. And then also as the director of HR she dealt with all of the organizational problems that he created as well so his particular department had a crazy turnover. She spent a lot of time counseling his employees in her office and also spent a lot of time talking to the President about this person’s behavior and sort of begging the president to solve it. And the president would always just say, “That’s just how he is. I don’t know why it bothers you. Be the bigger person.” Which was of course frustrating to hear her pleas for help to just sort of be ignored. And then during all that time she started getting her Master’s Degree at San Diego State University and she decided to write a paper for one of her classes on this topic of sort of toxic work environments. And during that paper she came across that phrase, “Workplace Bullying” and she has been obsessed ever since and have continued to scramble to learn everything she possibly can about workplace bullying and she created a business around helping organizations solve that problem.

Yanique shared that the issue of bullying seems like something that’s not affected by a lot of organizations but it really is a widespread issue.

Catherine agreed and stated that they call it the silent epidemic in the U.S.A lot of other countries actually have laws around workplace bullying but America does not. So, it’s just as pervasive if not more so than harassment and discrimination because it’s really equal opportunity harassment and so there is a lot of it. A lot of people feel bullied at work, in fact research puts that number at around 30 to 50 percent of people have been bullied at some point in their working life.

Yanique stated that it’s interesting that Catherine mentioned that it’s such a high percentage and asked if she believe that it filtrates out of the education system because a lot of kids are bullied in schools as well.

Catherine stated that she thinks that we are all mean, the society at large is mean, look at TV, it’s all full of mean drama. Reality TV is mean, politics they’re mean, we’re mean when we’re on the road, we can be uncivil if someone’s going too slow or cut us off. We tend to have this propensity to sort of lash out and we live in a high stress environment because we’re always on our phones, we always have someplace to be and so she thinks it’s harder to be kind and to take a step back and be nice and take a breath and focus on civility. It’s easier to let your frustrations get the best of you. And in school certainly bullying happens and there is some research that’s found that if you bully as a child you probably bully as an adult. And also, if you’re a target as a child you may be a target as an adult.

  • Catherine Mattice stated that leadership absolutely is the biggest player in the culture so leadership has to decide, “This is the kind of culture we want” and then putting things in motion to create that kind of a culture. Bullying is an organizational problem and culture is an organizational problem and it has to be solved by the leaders so leaders really have to say, “We want a positive work environment because we know it impacts internal and external customer service. We know it impacts innovation and decision making and people’s ability to learn.” so when you have a savvy leader who knows that positive relationships and positive feelings about your organization impact the bottom line then you’re lucky and you get a positive work environment. But bullying is absolutely an organizational problem not an employee problem.

Yanique asked what if the leader is a bully himself?

Catherine shared that she gets that question a lot. She stated that she honestly hates to give this advice but you have to leave. If the CEO or the leader is a bully, there probably isn’t anyway that leaders going to hear anyone out if the leader is told people perceive you as too abrasive. Sometimes an HR professional or maybe someone close to the leader in the C-Suite depending on their relationship can have a conversation with the leader and maybe able to be heard. But in her experience, leaders believe that sort of abrasive aggressive leadership style has worked for them and so they’re not going to be interested in changing unless you can really show them the damage they’re causing. People can change, she coaches people who are bullies all the time but the CEO or the leader, unless somebody is close enough to that person to have that conversation she would say you may want to consider leaving because the culture is not going to get any better.

Yanique mentioned if the leader is a bully as Catherine said and she recommend that they leave. Do you feel that even though you said you believe people can change but a big part of change means that they have to become self-aware that something needs to change because many of them would be like, “Well the problem isn’t me, it’s them.” She has heard that so many times in organizations when employees make complaints and a lot of times that the complaints are being made, they’re not willing to accept that sometimes the issue is not necessarily with the other person but sometimes we need to look internally and look at how we could be doing things differently because maybe if we take a different approach you will get a different result.

  • Catherine stated that she recognizes that because of Social Media and the Internet that company is there maybe more focused on customers than they used to be but it’s more about the branding than really caring about customers and you see that with all of the negative things that go on. United Airlines being an example, they had this big media problem when they had the police come and remove a customer but that was a culture problem, that’s the reason that happened, that the people who worked for United actually thought to themselves, “We are going to call the police and have this customer forcibly removed.”That’s a culture problem with United Airlines. She thinks that customer experience and customer service boils down to culture as well and having a positive work environment as they’ve talked about.
  • Catherine stated that she thinks a big thing that she sees with her clients is that when companies call her because their culture is negative, one of the things they’re not doing is living their core values. So, she has really come to see the value in core values and she has seen it firsthand that if you can live your core values and make your core values part of everything you’re doing day in and day out then that would really affect the culture because then everyone is very clear on how they’re supposed to act. Going back to the United Airlines example, United versus Southwest Airlines which always wins customer service awards. Their three core values are servants heart, warrior spirit and something about having fun. If an employee is making decisions in the context of those three core values, they would never ask Police to forcibly remove a customer’s not doing anything wrong. So, United Airlines wasn’t living their core values and that’s how things like that happen. A lot of companies don’t see the value in core values until something awful happens and then they realize, “Oh, we’ve got to get back to our core values.”

Yanique mentioned that some companies have core values that their employees don’t even believe in.

Catherine agreed and stated that that goes back to it though, she sees this all the time, companies have core values and they’re on their website and maybe they’re on a sign somewhere in the lunchroom and that’s the extent of it, so how can employees believe in those core values when they’re not part of their day in and day out life. It’s up to the organization to say, “Here are our core values. This is how we want everyone to behave.” And then the organization has to find ways to advertise those core values regularly and ensure that employees know them and live them regularly.

Yanique mentioned that it’s like you’re basically trying to find new and innovative ways to reinforce and basically have lots of repetition. So, now it becomes a part of their DNA. So, if courtesy is one of your core values, in everything you do you try to effect courtesy that way when you’re dealing with external customer it’s not something that you’re trying to put on, it comes so naturally because it’s something that you practice every day anyway.

  • Catherine shared that she thinks it’s all of the negative stuff that she sees really fuels her fire and makes her work even harder to make a dent in all of the negativity. It really pains her to see employees unhappy and what you do for a living is such a big part of your self-esteem and your self-concept. It’s a huge part of who we are as people, what we do for a living and to have that torn down and have somebody like a bully clawing at your identity and your self-esteem and yourself concept day in and day out. It pains me to know that there’s people out there who experience that and that’s what motivates her. She is driven to touch the lives of as many employees out there in the world as she possibly can. And also, she has been through some things that have made her angry at the right amount of angry where she has submitted proposals to work with a client and the stories they told her were absolutely awful and then she’ll submit a proposal, she work with a charter to try to solve it and then the leader comes back and says, “I don’t think this is important enough to spend that money.” That makes her angry and that anger fuels her too. It makes her want to work harder.

Yanique stated that she knows exactly what she means in terms of them not seeing the value in it. And as Catherine said, it really boils down to the value system of the individuals that you’re dealing with and what they deem of importance.

  • Catherine mentioned that one of the app is LinkedIn that she uses regularly to make connections. She uses HubSpot to manage her customers and interactions. MailChimp that she’s using for email management. She stated that there’s definitely a lot of tools out there that she feels like she couldn’t live without that help to keep her basically organized and having everything just flow.
  • Catherine mentioned some of the books that have had a big impact on her. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, that was her very first personal development book so that one has had a big impact on her. She has read a lot of books on workplace bullying, one book she mentioned a lot that had an impact on her is a book called Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance by Kim Cameron.He is in the positive psychology space and he talks a lot about essentially how to create a positive work environment too and he has very specific action items in that book that she actually offers up as advice quite a lot and it’s a short read, she highly recommend that book. That’s probably one of my favorite sort of business books.
  • Catherine stated that one piece of advice that she would give business owners and managers is that they should help their employees find meaning in their work. Help them find a profound connection to everything that they’re doing and that the company is trying to accomplish and your company will flourish if you do that.

Yanique reiterate, help them find meaning in what they’re doing. Therefore, there must be a direct link between what the company’s goals are and what the personal goals of the employee is because if those two things actually have some congruence then both entities actually have a win-win situation.

Catherine agreed and gave an example of that, she was doing some training for a company that kills mosquitoes, that’s their business. She was doing some training and on a break, she just sort of asked the trainee sitting next to her, “Tell me more about your business, what you do?” and she said, “Well, we killed mosquitoes. That’s about it.” That’s all she got. And this other person sitting next to her says, “Is that all you think we’re doing here? We are saving this community from West Nile Virus.” He was offended that she thought all they did was kill mosquitoes and so he believes he’s saving the community from this horrible disease by killing mosquitoes and killing mosquitoes was a means to the end goal of saving that community. So that’s what she’s talking about, help reminding your employees that there’s a bigger picture beyond their tasks.

  • Catherine shared that they just finished up all the quality issues today. She just released an online course that is essentially her consulting methodology. It’s a way to help organizations that can’t afford expensive consultants but they need to change their culture. This online course takes them through that process and it has a whole bunch of videos and worksheets and checklists and job aides and literally somebody could take her course and change their organizations culture using the tools in the course, so that is the thing she is super-duper excited about right now. She mentioned that the course can be found at civilitypartners.com/makeover
  • Catherine shared listeners can find her at –

LinkedIn – Catherine Mattice Zundel

Twitter – @CatMattice

Facebook – Catherine Mattice Zundel

Facebook – Civility Partners

Website – www.civilitypartners.com

  • Catherine shared that there is a quote that she always reverts to and it’s by Viktor Frankl who was in the Holocaust and suffered some horrible things and one of his famous quotes is, “The last of any human freedom is the freedom of choice.” We get to choose our attitude in our circumstances and it’s really important to keep that in mind. We can’t be victims of circumstance, we have to take charge of how we react to the circumstances and only then can you overcome adversity.

Yanique reiterated, basically freedom of choice is something that we all have regardless of the situation that we’re in. And that’s a great privilege. So, we should definitely try to exercise it as much as possible.


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