Being Nice in a Linked World

niceI recently had a conversation with a colleague regarding how the concept of “being nice” varies across people. In our more connected, over-engaged, and fast paced world, it is easy to become impatient or even irritable and let the “niceties” go when so many other things press on us. For example, think how easy it is to be gruffer when we wish employees would get the instructions right the first time, staff would complete their work on time, or people would move a little faster in the grocery aisles. Our discussion arose from a debate over how long an employee has to be with the company before they warrant a going away luncheon. We both agreed that the nice thing to do would be to have a luncheon, regardless. However, most of our coworkers argued it was too soon or not needed in any circumstances.
Some might argue that in the past the golden rule played a bigger role in our mental calculus. People focused more on their behavior predicating how they will be treated by others. Although falling short of accepting a something similar to a system of karma, most saw the world in a time of less connectivity as being more connected at a human level.

Today, it our ever more connected world, actions and words circle the globe in a click of a button. Very few actions, events, or feelings go unnoticed by someone.
An article on Cnet.com this week reminded me of how connected things really can be (http://www.cnet.com/news/developer-curses-at-man-on-subway-meets-him-again-in-job-interview/). A Monday morning, London commuter when another traveler was in his way shoved the man and cursed him as he pushed past. Although we have all have those moments of frustration and anger, it is easy to forget that the little things do matter. The commuter later that day attended his scheduled job interview for an IT development position and was shocked to find that the man he shoved on the train was his interviewer. Although the interviewer commented that the candidate failed to be a match, surely the commuter’s attitude played a role in the decision.

Given the connectivity of our world and the fact that we all have bad days and say things we wish we could change, what can we do? As leaders, we have to remember that we are constantly being observed and analyzed. Every action that we take impacts perception, engagement, and outcomes. In the most caustic environments, predicting the moods and the appropriate responses become a cottage industry in the workplace. Even in more healthy environments, what we say and how we act enhances or undermines productivity. Consequently, we have to think before we act. As employees, we all depend on each other and an enemy today may be an important ally or teammate tomorrow. With organizations, we should give those going away lunches since being nice equates to giving a good feeling to someone that may be a future client, customer, or reference.