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Basic Courtesy, Part II

By Chuck Violand

May 22, 2017

Basic courtesies in the workplace can influence how much coworkers want to collaborate with us on projects, how approachable people view us when they have problems, and even the level of stress others feel when being around us.

The American Psychological Association estimates that workplace stress costs the U.S. economy $500 billion a year. That’s a lot of money! And it makes a lot of sense when you consider decreases in work efforts, lost work days, and even declines in commitment to our organizations that incivility and discourtesies foster.

The reasons people give for not being courteous are legion, but one that stands out is people feeling they’re overloaded with work and have no time to be nice. Really?! Being courteous doesn’t have to take extra time, but it does take being mindful of opportunities. Here are a few to add to those offered in Part I of this series:

Open doors. In many cases, modern technology has taken care of this for us, which might help explain why so few of us think to hold a door open for others when they don’t open automatically. At the same time, it might also be why it’s appreciated so much when someone does. Opening doors isn’t a courtesy that only extends to grandmas. It should be extended to people of all ages and both genders.

Put your phone down. Mobile technology has become such a pervasive part of our everyday lives that many times we’re not aware how frequently they distract our attention. We’re in a conversation or in a meeting and feel compelled to acknowledge (viewing is acknowledging) the tweet, the text, or the call. Doing so sends a subtle message that “I have no idea what this is about, but it must be more important than you.”

When our kids were growing up my wife and I instituted a mobile-free zone at the dinner table. This was family time to us, and we didn’t want that time interrupted with “emergency” calls from their friends. Where were all these emergencies before the advent of mobile phones? It makes you wonder how civilization continued to advance when people actually had to wait to make a phone call. Or before phones even existed! I’m convinced that most of today’s “gottas” are really just “wannas.”

Carry the water. This involves looking for ways to carry more than your “fair share” of the load. On a committee? Volunteer to do the job nobody else wants. Want to take it a step further? Do it with a smile!

Grab a shovel or a broom and put it to use. There’s always a mess that needs cleaned up—even when it’s not your own.

There will be times in business when you’ll have to be firm with workers or with customers. Extending courtesies on a regular basis makes it easier for people to accept the firmness when it does occur.

In too many cases, I feel courtesy is couched in sarcasm. We’re not comfortable offering a sincere compliment, or saying thank you without wrapping it up in a sarcastic package. That’s a mistake.

It doesn’t matter how trends, fashions, or ideals change over time. Courtesy is always in style.