Interpersonal Edge: Politeness in workplace doesn't cost, it pays
Sunday, October 19, 2014

 By Dr. Daneen Skube

Tribune Content Agency
   Q. I'm told I'm gruff and perceived as difficult at work. The truth is I focus on getting the job done. I watched a news show yesterday about how people at work sabotage you when they don't like you. In the show, the baristas at coffee shops even gave customers decaf rather than caffeine when the customer was rude. Do you think people go out of their way to undermine you if they think you are impolite?
  A. Absolutely! People go many extra miles for others who are grateful and simply polite. On the other hand, many people enjoy getting even and will try to do so secretly (since doing so outwardly will likely get them disciplined or fired.
  Not only will you get decaffeinated coffee when you are rude to your local barista; you also won't get extra whipped cream or a free cookie - ever! Yes, at work we have to do our job, but none of us are machines. We want to be looked in the eye, smiled at and talked to with appreciation and a friendly tone.
  I have had clients who are brilliant at technical aspects of their job but who were nearly oblivious to interpersonal aspects at work. They were usually sent to me by someone in the corporation who wanted to keep the employee but had to get them to learn how to quit alienating coworkers.
  Employees who are poor at interpersonal relationships are often shocked when they arrive in my office and start to understand how a lack of simple politeness has been undermining their success.
  In our driven, frenetic and multitasking work days, it is easy to get so focused on results that we lose sight of simple kindness to the people who are making the results possible.
  I teach one priority attitude to my clients: Look closely at every human being you meet at work and ask yourself, How can I leave this specific person better than when I found him or her?
  You'll discover when you ask this question that there are a million things you can do or say to achieve that objective. People can benefit for days from a warm smile, a genuine compliment or an appreciative remark.
  As you build your career network, this politeness will leave a lasting impression on each person you have left better off. You are putting words, smiles, compliments and appreciation in a bank you may one day need to draw from.
  We may like to believe that each of us is a self-made success or a self-made failure and others have no part in our ultimate career goals. The truth is we are utterly dependent and interdependent on the assistance of others to get the rich and interesting jobs we dream about.
  If you can develop the automatic habit of leaving everyone you meet better off, your entire life (not just your work life) will improve. Clients tell me stories about the grocery clerk who walks them around the store to find exactly what they need, the coworker who stays late to finish a project, and the vendor who even finds a discontinued item. Do you think any of these events happen for those who "just get the job done"?
  For those readers who highly value efficiency, consider this math: A few minutes spent being polite will always pay off in hours saved later. Instead of thinking of politeness as wasting immediate moments, consider politeness as an investment you make in your future success.
  The last word(s)
  Q. My boss says he hired me for my ability to be creative and innovate. My boss and my organization have used a lot of my ideas. However, when I first propose new ideas a lot of my coworkers laugh at me and think what I'm proposing is ridiculous. Do you have any suggestions?
  A. Yes, remember the words of Ashleigh Brilliant, cartoonist and author: "They laughed at Edison and Einstein, but somehow I still feel uncomfortable when they laugh at me." Remember, you are in very good company when others laugh!

  Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.

This column was printed in the October 19, 2014 - November 1, 2014 edition.


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