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Be Kind; Please Rewind – Don’t Let Common Courtesy Go the Way of the VHS Tape

“Please” and “thank you” and “you’re welcome” and “excuse me” all have two things in common: they are expressions of common courtesy, and they cost you nothing. Common courtesy extends far beyond simple pleasantries though. Common courtesy in the workplace is a cost-free yet priceless way of showing respect and appreciation. Consider ways you can extend some common courtesy at the workplace and watch the positive effects ripple out like a freshly disturbed lake surface.

Drop the SEP label. Not familiar? It stands for “Someone Else’s Problem.” It’s commonly appropriated to anything and everything that falls under an indirect assignment or common space. Wondering who usually takes care of the random dishes at the end of the day? Considering taking out the garbage even though it’s not really part of your job? Vacillating between doing a final walk-through to turn off the lights vs. just leaving? Take the Nike approach: just do it. When it comes to those things that seem like they magically get done somehow, take some time once in a while and be that “somehow” that they get done. You may even find out who the unsung hero is and be thanked by the person who does all those thankless jobs. The perspective and appreciation you can gain for the little things shows that you’re able to see the bigger picture and be a part of the team, even without promise of a direct reward.

Live by Elsa’s theme song and let it go. Someone take “your” (unassigned) parking space? Somebody not hold the door? Go to reach for something and the last of it was used without anyone refilling? Let it go. Don’t hold onto anger and frustration over petty disputes that happen from time to time when groups of people spend a majority of their day together. You don’t want to take your resentment for the person who put the toilet paper roll on wrong out on your next e-mail recipient. The daily transgressions that don’t truly impact us shouldn’t be allowed to affect other parts of our days and sabotage our work.

Know what happens when you assume. Whether you’re assuming an e-mail was sent with a certain tone, a boss or coworker’s or employee’s quietness has to do with you, or someone’s work was subpar, when you assume, you infuse the situation with a context completely created by you. Rarely does this go well. Often it results in miscommunication or misunderstandings. Instead of operating from a position of assumed knowledge, be kind and curious. Maybe the e-mail was sent without that tone you inferred. Maybe what you thought was a quiet sulk has nothing to do with you and everything to do with how little sleep the person got. Consider the possibility that just because you don’t like an idea or finished product, it doesn’t mean that’s not the best the person could do. By humbly forcing yourself into a position of not assuming, you’re making space for possibilities, other people’s feelings, and new information. This space allows for opportunities to grow, which is far healthier than boxing everyone and everything in.

Don’t let common courtesy die at the workplace. Breathe new life into it and resuscitate the morale within your company. The culture of your company is its heartbeat with common courtesy acting as a main artery. Unblock it and enjoy the energy.

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