Transformational Leadership

Courtesy and Random Acts of Kindness at Work

Laurie Wilhelm asked:

The random acts of kindness movement has arrive into our lives through Kindness Days, Kindness Clubs, bumper stickers and, believe it or not, “how-to” kindness manuals. It has become a rather fashionable and trendy right-thing-to-do. Random acts of kindness (a play on the words “random acts of violence”) can be planned or unplanned, but for an kind act to be called a “random,” it has to be done anonymously.

Random or not, anonymous or not, the world is a better place when kindness and compassion for one another flourishes. But what happened to the non-random, attach-a-name-to kindness that we call courtesy? What happened to treating everyone we meet with respect and consideration? This was the courtesy we learned about before we could spell our own names. “Be nice, play fair, and share.” It was part of our day-to-day way of living and it didn’t matter if it was given anonymously or not, or to strangers or friends, acquaintances or family. We don’t seem to see much of it anymore.

Let’s face it. At work, we’re most courteous to the people who we’re trying to get something from – like a stellar job review, a promotion, or a better computer. But courtesy should be extended to everyone – and by everyone I mean our staff, our assistant, the receptionist, the security guard, the cleaning staff – you get the picture. The initials behind our names and the corporate positions we hold do not exempt us from treating others well at all times.

Courtesy is the simple, thoughtful words and actions that take seconds to do and have lasting effects. It’s greeting the receptionist in the morning instead of walking by pretending you didn’t see her; saying “thank you” when someone from the mailroom drops off a package; acknowledging the person who set up the sandwiches in the conference room for your lunchtime meeting; or buying a second cup coffee and bringing it to your assistant.

Next time you’re in the elevator with someone struggling to hold three armloads of files, instead of saying what you think is a witty comment like, “You certainly have your hands full!” say, “Can I give you a hand with that?”

Don’t get me wrong. Random acts of kindness are wonderful and can be fun at the same time. However, they are in addition to our daily courtesies. The side-effects of treating everyone with respect all the time helps to reduce stress and relieve tension that eat away at our companies’ productivity. Best of all, it creates an environment where Monday mornings aren’t that bad and goodwill is contagious.

Courtesy belongs in the workplace and should not left by the revolving doors of our office buildings from 9-5. We could launch a campaign to bring courtesy back into the workplace and we could give it a name, like The Courtesy Crusade, or designate a day to it or create bumper stickers. Instead of doing all that and spending our energy making courtesy an event, let’s just do it, everyday, quietly and simply.


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