Courtesy and Respect in the Workplace

I believe that civility, in general, is on the decline – everything from pulling over to the side of the road for a passing ambulance to taking our hat off indoors or putting our hand over our heart for the national anthem as a necessary sign of respect. Saying “Hello,” “Good Morning,” “Have a nice day,” “Good luck on your appointment,” and just using “Please and Thank you” with each other is something we should always do. Use a “nice” tone of voice – it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. One of the best traits you can develop early in your career is learning how to be kind but firm and professional. Being nice does not mean getting walked on – it simply means that you are polite.

Rudeness and poor manners bring about negativity, not just in the workplace but in the world in general. Attitude is everything, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t work better in a positive and happy work environment. We spend a huge portion of our lives around other people we see every day, yet sometimes we take them for granted and don’t extend the same level of kindness, politeness and respect that we do a perfect stranger. When I was a bratty teenager, my mother used to say to me in a sarcastic tone, “You wouldn’t want to waste your personality on your family – Save it for everyone else.” I have never forgotten that.

So what can we do to reduce or combat this lack of courtesy, respect and kindness, both in the American workplace and outside?  First, go back to the basics. Some people don’t even do as adults what they require their children to do. Start with simple courtesies like polite greetings. Build from there by intentionally developing new habits. Remember the respectful things that came naturally to your grandparents and re-adopt them. Require courtesy of your co-workers and family. Apologize when necessary. Compliment others when you see them doing right.

I try to do all of the above, and as important as it is to me, I still have to remind myself. I get busy, frustrated and stressed, and I can feel my standards slipping. Still, I try to treat everyone as an equal and as someone of value to the world. No matter what kind of day I’m having, I make every attempt to keep it to myself. I try to not ask any more of anyone than I am willing to do myself.

Being nice and polite can be contagious. One or two people can set the tone and raise the standard for everyone, and before you know it, the habit is instilled in a whole group.  I think you can get twice as much accomplished with kindness. Whether you have had to push a point, or require concessions or cooperation from someone who does it grudgingly, a simple “Thank you VERY much” can go a long way.

By April Fawcett Nagel

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