When buried in the day-to-day tasks and for many now working remotely, courtesy and respect can get tossed out the window. This behavior can become a real problem as regard for others should be standard practice.
When we work in close proximity or conduct regular face-to-face interactions, we are more likely to build that human connection. In a way, we are almost “forced” to get to know each other, which makes it tougher to be rude or unpleasant to the other individual.
In the world today, most of our communication is neither in person nor even in real-time.
Email and voicemail, combined with virtual communication, have made it the go-to-choice versus meeting a colleague or employee in the same room.
This shift means there’s a lot less pressure to be “nice” to the person you’re with whom you’re interacting. It’s much easier to be less than kind via a phone call, and email communication makes it easier to be even more abrupt.
One of the benefits of working in a closer vicinity is that many co-workers get close and become confidants for each other. This connection reduces stress for many as they’re comfortable “venting” about a situation versus allowing it to grow out of proportion. The absence of high-touch makes it easier to experience a breakdown when it comes to courtesy.
Another example is that it’s easier to claim you didn’t know about a customer’s urgent request because you “didn’t receive the email.” Or, you know about the problem, and the manager or supervisor is too busy and ignores their emails and voicemails, which prevents you from responding promptly without approval.
Many such examples exist and can eventually lead to a toxic environment filled with frustration and reduced motivation among the staff if allowed to fester without being addressed.
To prevent further courtesy breakdown, to follow are a couple of suggestions to help you work toward a more respectful workplace.
Schedule a team meeting and make sure to include virtual organization members. Talk openly about the culture you envision and what you expect from the team. Don’t be surprised if they appear astonished that this behavior is even taking place. You can expect this reaction as remember, this way of doing things has most likely gone on for a while, especially if you’re now on a more remote model.
BEFORE you initiate the meeting, write down clear examples to share to help them better understand. Those who got into the groove of brushing off others during their interactions will see the light with this wake-up call if they are genuinely a kind person. It’s not a good idea to call on people directly in a group, but you can share it as a generic example and then talk to the “offenders” privately.
As with everything, make sure to include some positive interaction accounts to show it’s not across the board, so it doesn’t turn into a negative fest.
You may even consider ending the meeting by stating this is a fresh start and that you feel this behavior wasn’t intentional, just a force of habit to move through the day. And, that moving forward now that they have clear expectations, you will “call them out” as you see it happening. This strategy is a great way to re-orient your team and positively affect their interactions with each other.
The final suggestion will help keep everyone on track and avoid falling back into bad habits. Encourage them to be open with each other, and if there is an “offender,” that each of them should gently point it out to the person with whom they’re communicating (unless it’s a customer or client).
Truthfully, most people do not mean to be insensitive, but a heated conversation or frustration from something completely different can cause someone to be unintentionally rude.
If you can give everyone permission to point it out, at the moment it happens, you’d be surprised at how in the dark someone is about their behavior. Of course, this exercise needs to occur with courtesy and respect. And if it’s sincerely unintentional, this could be something they laugh at together and move on to the next task or conversation.
This mentality falls in line with one of the Golden Rules, “Treat others as you would like others to treat you.” We all want to work with others who treat us kindly, and just a little effort goes a long way, and after a bit of time, it will become second nature in the way you communicate with each other. This atmosphere leads to a happier and productive environment.
Now go out into the world and be kind!