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A simple way to reduce workday friction

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A simple way to reduce workday friction

The practice of courtesy is an effective antidote to the stresses of organizational life

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Hamburger Management—the curse of all ultra-macho organizations—has no time for politeness or courtesy. In the faster, cheaper world of “winner takes all,” it’s fine to tell lies (called “spin”), deceive others (called PR), and bluff or cheat your way to success (called office politics). But taking the time to deal politely with others is classed as a pointless waste of effort that doesn’t add to the “bottom line.”

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This is yet another foolish, short-sighted mistake of that most mistaken of management techniques.

Courtesy and good manners exist as the “oil” that helps all kinds of contacts run without unnecessary friction or wear. It was assumed once to be the distinguishing mark of a civilized society — which may explain why today it is becoming rare.

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It’s a bad mistake to see good manners as nothing more than empty rituals of a more formal way of living. Informality and courtesy are perfectly happy bedfellows. What distinguishes courtesy is not formal ritual but a natural concern for the other person—a wish to interact with them in a way that preserves or enhances their dignity and sense of well-being. You can do that and still be as relaxed and informal as you wish.

Helping life run smoothly
I called courtesy and good manners the “oil” in human relationships, at home or at work. It’s a particularly apt analogy.

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If you try to run a piece of machinery without lubrication, you will ruin it. Before final burnout and total seizure of all moving parts, there will be a great deal of heat, considerable wear and damage, and the spaces between surfaces will be filled with all kind of fragments and grit.

An organization without sufficient attention to simple courtesy suffers in much the same way.

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A great deal of heat, hostility, aggression, and anger is generated rather quickly. As people rub up against each other, they cause irreparable damage and “wear”, twisting each other out of shape and distorting attitudes. All the minor, inevitable irritants of human life—the “grit” that would have been smoothed away by the lubrications of courtesy—build up until they scour relationships with pain and frustration.

Over time, more and more energy and effort has to be expended to keep the social machinery moving at all—an expenditure of energy that would be entirely unnecessary in a more civilized environment. Small sections probably burn out and stop working. People are permanently damaged. The atmosphere is thick with the smell of tension and friction.

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There’s no excuse for such a situation—certainly not the one that goes: “business is about making money, not pandering to people’s feelings.” We all know perfectly well what to do. Organizations may resemble machines in many ways, but they aren’t only machines. They’re also complex human societies, with all the strengths and problems that brings.

Returning to civilized modes of working isn’t being weak or non-competitive. It isn’t based on ignoring financial and commercial realities in favor of “touchy-feely” idealism. It’s a hard-headed response to seeing the amount of waste and damage being inflicted by callous approaches to coping with organizational reality and doing something about it.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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