I go to Trader Joes every Sunday morning, after church. I get there at about 10:30. The timing is more important than you might think. I want to see George, and George’s shift ends at 11:00. George is why I love Trader Joes. George is a store-worker who brightens my day every time that I see him. Seriously. I’m not making up some BS story here. I know his name. He knows mine. He loves my daughter. She loves him. She runs into the store looking for George. His coworkers love him, and so do all of the other customers. He possesses the ultimate business skill: kindness.
I will always trust George. If he tells me to try new food, I will. If he tells me that my favorite food is gone for a good reason, I will believe him. George has earned the right to accomplish anything within his workplace because of his kindness. But what if George wasn’t nice? Could he accomplish as much in the workplace? I say no.
What can harshness accomplish in the business world? Can rudeness be productive? Is kindness, weakness? Nothing. No. No.
What do you want people to say about you when you leave a business meeting? Take a moment, and really think about this question. What do you want a person to say to their co-worker the moment you leave their presence during a business engagement? “Oh, he’s super smart.” “Wow, he’s really funny.” “Hmm, he was kind of a dick.” “What a nice guy!”
In my opinion, kindness is the aim. You can accomplish any business goal that you might have, yet still employ kindness. You can fire someone compassionately. You can interrogate someone with care. You can appreciate a job well done with sincerity. We’ve all left a business encounter with someone who values something else. They might value power, belittlement, or superiority. Can these negative aims accomplish something that kindness can’t? Nope. Quite the opposite. Aggressive behavior is counter-productive and a career killer.
My dad always told me that “you can attract more bees with honey than vinegar.” This statement has always resonated with me. But then again my father is a very kind man. I think this is why I see value in kindness. I resolved long ago that I’m not willing to forego human connection in lieu of “business.” No one likes an a-hole, so why be one? Power comes with influence. You can either force your influence on someone by being aggressive, or you can earn their respect by being kind. Your kindness will then result in influence, earned influence, not taken influence.
There’s an increased scrutiny of bullies in our society today, as there should be. But have you encountered a workplace bully yet? Wow. It sucks. There is an entire organization that was created to help people deal with the psychological damage of workplace bullies. I can’t fathom having a co-worker go home at night psychologically damaged by my actions. Yet it happens all the time. Well, not my co-workers. But you know what I mean. So not only are people not being nice, but they are the other extreme, rude. So rude that they literally ruin the days of their coworkers, day after day. Don’t let this be you. And if it is you, why? Why in the hell would you do that? Stop, man.
You won’t always succeed in your goal to be seen as kind. I’m sure that people have left interactions with me saying something less than “wow, he’s really nice.” We aren’t always at our best. But I don’t think we will ever be at our best if we aren’t kind people. If I somehow was able to accomplish every career goal, but did it at the expense of relationships and people, then the accomplishment would be pointless. I choose kindness. You?
“Don’t you take my kindness for weakness” – Dilated Peoples
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.