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Being Kinder Than Necessary April 28, 2014

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Coaching, workplace success.
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I was dusting the top of my TV yesterday (something I do fairly regularly, honest). I moved a wooden decoration that I keep on top of the TV which says “Be kinder than necessary.” And since I was thinking about my next blog post, I put two and two together and thought that sentence would make a great theme for a blog post—hence the words that follow.

People are not always thrilled to be at work.

People get cranky at work. It happens to the best of us. We are often working when we’d rather be playing. Or we’re under a lot of stress to do more with less. Or we just don’t like the people we are forced to work with. Or our boss is a real shit….and the list goes on. So since we do get cranky, work relationships can get strained and stay that way.

Working with a good community of people makes for high job satisfaction.

That said, I recently did a little research on what makes for high work satisfaction and guess what. A good community of people to work with ranks right up there—often number 2 or 3 on the list. This leads me to the startling conclusion that to be happier at work it’s best to get along with those with whom we work. (Notice I refrained from putting ‘with’ at the end of that sentence?)

That’s where the advice, “Be kinder than necessary” comes in. Here are some of my suggestions about bringing it to your work life. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t use it in your personal life; it’s just that my suggestions pertain to work. Remember I’m a workplace success coach (shameless self-promotion)

So here goes…

· Refuse to engage in negative third party conversations about anyone. There is nothing that destroys trust faster than when someone finds out you’ve been criticizing them behind their back. And while we’re on that subject, how do you think the people you are talking to feel about that? They are maybe thinking that you’ll be bad-mouthing them behind their backs the next time you get the chance. Make it a policy to keep your opinion to yourself unless you are specifically asked to give feedback or unless withholding your assessment would have disastrous results.

· While we’re on the subject of feedback, when you are asked for feedback, try engaging your brain before you speak. What is the most useful feedback you can give? What has precipitated the request for your feedback? How much negative feedback is helpful?

And don’t just pile on the negative stuff, try being encouraging and supportive about something the person has done—even if you have to dig very, very deep. Give feedback about something that the person can hope to change. If their voice is scratchy and annoying on the phone, perhaps you could mention something else. It’s a little hard to change the voice you were born with. And rather than a punch list of a hundred improvements, stick with the most important. Above all, give feedback the way you’d like someone to give it to you—unless you are very thick-skinned and nothing bothers you. In that case, just dial it back until you see how it’s being received.

· When you have to do something that’s ‘not your job’ do it gracefully and without editorializing. Maybe the person you are standing in for is a real screw-up or just maybe he or she is having a bad day because their elderly parent is dying. Before you rush to judgment about someone who is not measuring up to your standards, take a deep breath and be kinder than necessary about the situation.

· And on to standards. One of the things that causes us to criticize others is that they don’t measure up to our set of standards. How could they? Stop yourself for a moment or two when you’re ready to open your mouth to criticize someone. Is your way really the only ‘right’ way or is it just your way? Who made you master of the universe? Leave room for the styles and problem-solving practices of others and you may find a new and even better way of attacking a problem.

There is a whole load of ways that you can be kinder than necessary to others at work. I’ll leave it to you to figure out what they are in your particular workplace. The important thing is not what you actually do but how you do it. If you hold the intention that you are going to be kinder than necessary at work, you may (read ‘should’) find that your workplace becomes a kinder, gentler place for you too.

And after all, you deserve that.

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