Kindness is a lost art and chivalry and common courtesy are dead. It only took one awkward but interesting job experience out of college for me to start believing this popular lie. When I graduated from Northern Illinois University in ’08, I worked at this insurance company as an entry-level associate. The company was banking and in the middle of a boom even when the economy started to dip.
In all the hype over scaling and growing, things started to fall apart. The profits, though, looked good on paper, so no one spoke up.
Quietly, things changed for the worse. The high-volume hiring and on-boarding of new associates without good transition plans spoiled team chemistry in my and other departments. Pointless meetings and mixed messages caused confusion and frustration among associates. The change in people’s attitudes and work culture made associates and managers paranoid of each other.
One day, my manager crept up behind me in my cube, peeked over my shoulder and called me out for sending a personal email in Outlook. The micromanagement and invasion of my space really rubbed me the wrong way, so I left the company later that week.
Over time, the bitter experience turned into a learning opportunity. It let me better appreciate the value of being a real person in the workplace. Kindness and courtesy aren’t in our job descriptions or something we can put on our resumes, but they matter. In my experience since, I’ve found that kind habits give professional interactions a personal touch, and instead of pointing fingers, it’s better to just play your own part.
Working at Quill.com is the opposite of that old job. It has a company culture in which people value personal, team and company achievements equally, and I think kindness and respect are a big part of it.
Here are some basic reminders and habits of kindness that we sometimes tend to forget or take for granted.
Get names right.
How often do people botch your name in conversation, emails and meetings? For those of you with homonym names (Jaime vs. Jamie) or foreign pronunciations, it happens all the time. In diverse and large organizations, the mistakes become excusable and acceptable because they happen so often.
That’s exactly why it’s important to not get caught in the trap and to do what you can to get names right. It’s a big but easy step toward building mutual respect with your colleagues. This is more apparent when you’re in a dysfunctional work environment where people see everyone else as just a job title.
Actionable tip: If you struggle with too many names and faces to remember, try Lumosity. The site offers brain training games that help memory, attention, patterns, etc. Here’s a good one for names.
Clean up after yourself.
My personal spaces in my home, my car and my cube have all kinds of clutter and mess. It’s a curse and a blessing, but it’s my own problem.
In public workplaces though such as conference rooms, break/restrooms and cafeterias, cleanliness matters because it affects everyone you work with. This isn’t so much a kind act as it is individual responsibility. Everyone has to do his or her part.
Actionable tip: Have a paper towel sheet in hand when microwaving food. Something always spills.
This tip is about kindness to your own mind and body. Sitting at your desk all day in front of a computer is poor form. Sitting shortens life. Our work stations are our minds and trick us into feeling there’s too much work and never enough time. In chasing productivity and efficiency, you forget to relax yourself.
Having gone through knee and back problems, I’ve been advised by my doctors to get up, stretch and walk around at least once every hour. I find that walking around the Quill.com campus not only relieves pressure on my body but is also a good way to clear my head and thoughts.
Actionable tip: Use the Pomodoro technique. Focus for 25 minutes on a task/project, walk around for 5 and repeat.
Remember and celebrate office birthdays.
The “say happy birthday to this person you never see or talk to” feature on Facebook is so convenient that it’s easy to over-depend on it. Now that I don’t have a Facebook account, it’s tough to remember occasions on time. When expressing wishes on people’s Facebook walls becomes a primary and not a supplementary means of communication, you start to forget the importance of phone and in-person conversations.
Thankfully, the classy people at Quill.com do a great job of celebrating occasions the right way. One of our office managers, Christi, hooks everyone in marketing up with cards and desk decorations on their special days.
And then Krista came along and joined our team. Birthdays are her favorite occasions to celebrate. She always bakes or brings something sweet on other people’s birthdays. I’m learning that little gestures like this—on top of workrecognition—help keep teams intact and build camaraderie in any workplace.
Actionable tip: I recently started using Business Calendar, a calendar management app, and now I make it a point to enter meaningful dates on it. It helps to set up a reminder 3-5 days before an occasion for gift shopping.
Say sorry, please and thank you.
Nothing new here. Just a friendly reminder to say the words that get used a lot but never enough. Although mastering these habits to perfection is impossible, practicing them one step at a time goes a long way.
Now it’s your turn— what type of kind habits help you move forward in your personal and professional goals? What golden rules get neglected today, because of the fast-paced world we live in, that our (grand) parents and teachers heavily emphasize? Please reply in the comments section.