I like to describe the workplace as one of the most complex places on earth. I consider it complex for many reasons. The first reason is that the staff have very diverse backgrounds. In particular, the staff grew up in different environments, have varying levels of education, are cultured differently, have different personalities, and much more. Secondly, the staff have collective goals which they can only achieve by working closely with each other. The staff are expected to achieve much more as a team than they would if they were to work individually. As the saying goes, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Despite this complexity, the workplace has been a source of joy for many.
Being nice to work with brings joy to the workplace. Nice is possibly too simple an adjective to comprehend. What does it mean to be nice to work with? Does it mean simply being pleasant when interacting with others? For example, being polite when responding to a query. Or does it mean being kind to others? Can one be nice yet unkind? Or does it mean being good-hearted, considerate of others, and getting our jobs done? Or does it mean getting along with others irrespective of the differences that exist amongst us? Or does it mean being easy to work with? It could mean all of these and more. When one is nice, they are often friendly, and above all, they show respect to others and are reliable. This literal meaning deviates from the not-so-nice origins of the word “nice.” Maybe these negative connotations have held people back from being nice.
We need more respect and more empathy in the workplace. I believe that every human being desires respect, and appreciates empathy. As colleagues, we need to embrace each other and seek to understand one another. The best workplaces have unique and healthy cultures. In such workplaces, colleagues work well together, they share information; they share insightful feedback; they support each other in getting the organization to achieve its goals. In so doing, everyone achieves more. Unfortunately, many other workplaces are full of people who undermine each other and undercut the efforts of others. In such workplaces, there are high-stress levels, lots of negativity, and overall, the culture turns toxic and there is burnout. This ultimately affects staff morale, and overall organizational performance dwindles.
I believe it pays to be nice to each other at the workplace. We all have the opportunity to make our workplace a better place. We need to be nice to our juniors, our seniors, those that we are on the same level with, and even to our suppliers and customers. Being nice is not only reserved for those in customer experience. Everyone in an organization would benefit from more healthy workplaces. Business leaders, in particular, bear a greater burden of making the workplace a better place. A place where people can feel respected and understood. A place where people feel wanted and appreciated. A place where healthy relationships are built and strong coalitions are formed for the greater good. Maybe the workplace needs to be a place where employees can find solace from an outside world that is sometimes hostile.
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via Twitter @KiruthuLucy