Be Kind While Doing Good

I turned to two colleagues next to me, who looked stunned, and said, “Being respectful and professional is never underrated”.

I had just been loudly and aggressively rebuked by a colleague during a very large community event, in front of others. She barked these words after being difficult, non-communicative, planning poorly and generally not being on the ball for months. Now in the heat of the event, she is snapping at me in front of our colleagues and guests. Lovely.

I ignored her, and addressed my younger colleagues who witnessed it instead. I figured it was more important to invest in their development in that moment and frankly, it was a way to steady myself -- “When they go low…” Thank you again, Mrs. Obama!

Would I choose to work with her again? Or refer her to someone else. No way!

I think of my friend Candace often, who will literally shrug her shoulders and swipe negativity with the back of her hand, off of her body when she interacts with such a person... and then she moves on. Another colleague says that if she meets with a negative or unkind person, she feels like (swiping her shoulder), “Ew, they got some of their stuff on me.” I feel like it is sage stick time.

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Whether it is office gossip, blaming, disrespect, aggressive, passive aggressive, harassment, rudeness or another kind of bad behavior, it is draining and toxic. Good people leave. Productivity and reputation suffers. Often the one dishing out the unkind behavior appears incapable. It is a threat to people’s health and a threat to success.

There are many articles on the “toxic” work environment. Here, I am saying, start with the basics - be kind. Be firm and direct, yes, AND be kind.

Note: Before going further, I want to note an important distinction here. This is not focused on racism, microaggressions or other blatant or passive discriminatory or bigoted behavior. That type of behavior is a whole other, totally inexcusable, level of disrespect and dehumanizing that needs to be handled in a much more serious manner than is addressed here. Though kindness and compassion is a good starting point. There are many great books, podcasts, articles and local experts on this topic and I am happy to share resources on request.

I am certainly far from perfect in the area of kindness at work though value this and do my best to emulate it. In my personal and professional life I have found that kindness brings more personal peace and good will. I find that people trust me more and teams I worked with have good morale and better productivity when we are good to one another. Catching more flies with honey is an old adage for a reason.

The accounting system I use for my consulting practice, prompts you to send a personalized email with an invoice, as they have found that when “thank yous” are included people get paid twice as fast! Imagine that!

As I wrote this, I thought of people who I have enjoyed working with, and specifically those that made a project better, with their efforts, kindness and professional behavior. Listed are behaviors that created an atmosphere of collaboration and success and a general congenial experience. Hopefully this is helpful to you.

  • Pleasant interactions- Friendly attitudes of “how can I help?” are always impressive. We all have moments where we “snap” at someone or are not as kind as we can be. Such is life. If you do snap, take a breath, go back to the person and apologize.
  • Clear communication- I take note of people in meetings, emails, and calls who have thought through what the other people need to know to be successful. They use clear and direct language and are focused with the information they are sharing.
  • Keeping emotional and personal problems at bay - We are human. Emotions and personal issues will show at times, but should not dominate day after day.
  • Being responsive - “She got right back to me" -- one of my favorites. “Timely” is subjective based on the project but this is always appreciated. Even just to say, “I received your email, I need to check on a few things and will get back to you by the end of the week.”
  • Being informed - People who are “in the know”. They may not know everything about a project, but they make an effort to be knowledgeable, beyond their silo, and if they do not know something, they find out and get back to you.
  • Using humor -  Joking with one another, even under pressure, helps alleviate some stress and lets you know, "we are are all in the same boat and it is going to be ok".
  • Taking responsibility - “I did not know this, let me see what we can do” or “I may have made a mistake, let me look into it” versus “No one told me….!!”. I feel confident in people when they own what is their responsibility and work to be successful.
  • Showing appreciation- Thanking others (individually and publicly) for their efforts is a huge motivator to others (many studies on this) and is gracious.
  • Giving 100%- People who care about a project, pull their weight, stay focused and are a supportive partner are the best!

Below are links to a few interesting articles on why being kind at work matters AND how to deal with people who have yet to read these articles 😉:

Being Kind to Others Benefits You
7 Surprising Reasons to Be Nice at Work
17 Simple Habits That Make You Look More Professional

Be kind and prosper!