At a recent visit to a local hospital, it was hard to not notice the signage in the elevators indicating that abusive or aggressive behavior would not be tolerated there. To me that seemed so obvious that I was befuddled that it had to be blatantly stated with a professionally created sign to visitors. Then I happened upon an article from Harvard Business Review (Frontline Work When Everyone Is Angry, 11/9/2022, Harvard Business Review https://bit.ly/3TBrDOx) that explained the signs I saw. Ahhh, okay – there is an issue I was unaware of in the world these days. People are being ‘pissy.’
I got to thinking about the effects of this issue on company culture and productivity when I learned that people are not being very nice in many arenas. This is not okay. This is just bad. Having moved to the state of Georgia during the pandemic from Southern California, my personal experience has been positive as the vast majority of people encounter are so very kind and friendly with their accents and greetings such as, “Miss Juli, how can I help you?” which just warms my heart every time. I love this show of friendliness and genuine kindness. If I am in a shop and an employee greets me nicely, then I want to buy something there. If I hire a person to do work for me on my property and they are nice, then I want to give them snacks and beverages, and I pay them more than they ask for. ‘What goes around, comes around’ is true – both good and bad.
So, since my field is productivity, I got to thinking about how lack of civility could impact this area for companies, small business, and relationships as a whole. When you think about it – the impact can be profound. Quality of work/deliverables suffers when people feel disrespected and who are not treated nicely (HBR, 2022). Dealing with bad behavior repeatedly erodes our desire to be nice to others – so it just snowballs and soon many people are being unkind. Someone has to stop the cycle. Sure, there will be situations when someone is justifiably angry or upset, so what if YOU were the catalyst that shifts the energy in that moment? It may only take a kind word, or compassion. Many things can make us humans act poorly (pain, stress, recent death, illness…etc.) which affects how we behave. If we are shown some compassion and kindness, it can often shift the mindset and attitude and soothe the person who is escalating in a negative way.
Here is my solution to this over-arching issue: Catch people doing good and compliment them — always and often.
When I coach around giving feedback and managing others, my first words of advice are always: Praise often. Tell someone when they have done a good job using powerful words such as “That is an awesome report,” “You did that so quickly – excellent job,” “You are really great at that!” or simply, “ Wonderful work.” Praise, along with ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ cannot be overused. On a whole, we humans don’t get enough positive strokes – so be that person to dole some out. I have been known to see someone walk by wearing the perfect outfit on them, or a color that looks great, and, without slowing down my pace, I just say something like, “That is a fabulous outfit on you,” and keep walking…but not before I have made eye contact and see the huge smile on that person’s face. A compliment. A kindness. Nothing expected in return and no agenda. Just being nice. People have shared with me that random compliments they receive change their entire mindset and truly make their day. It sparks joy!
I have said it before and I will say it again: Give compliments and praise often. Catch people doing good – it could be to a child, co worker, friend, or direct report – and even your supervisor. The concept of it being lonely at the top is real. Bosses like to hear that they are appreciated and doing well too. They mostly hear complaints from various arenas, so getting some positive feedback now and again can go a long way. Look for ways to spread positivity. Where can you have impact? Think about it…have you ever heard of bad things happening from being kind or positive? The reality is that negativity and incivility breed all kinds of bad things from poor health outcomes to decreased business and revenue (HBR, 2022). So, be nice. That’s it. Just be nice.
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