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Kindness Counts

Forget about being more organized. Goal-setting won’t do it. Time management means nothing and striving for work-life balance is useless. None of these productivity tools matter if you are less than kind at work.

Your relationship with those around you can make or break your productivity. It’s a fact that the hard-driving, impatient, abrasive workaholic often fails to realize or accept. Being obnoxious to people merely makes them want to retaliate, overtly or subconsciously. Somehow, your work goes to the bottom of their pile or it’s done a little shoddily. Even those who fear your reaction if they turn in less-than complete work will not go the extra mile if they don’t like you. They will keep their best ideas, opinions and information to themselves. You lose valuable insight and assistance as a result. At its worst, treating others with disrespect and unkindness sparks downright sabotage and retaliation in those you hurt. People look for ways to put flies in your ointment and enjoy the problems that ensue. Sure, that kind of behavior is passive-aggressive but for people working under a tyrant, it’s the only power they have.

Getting along well with clients, coworkers, vendors, and others is essential to getting things done on time. It’s a bottom-line reason for being kind, if you need such incentive. And this information isn’t just for bullies. Some professionals are so focused on work that they simply forget the people around them. I know. I once had a supervisor tell me that I needed to shoot the breeze with my coworkers more! I was perceived as standoff-ish and that won’t do. At the time, it seemed a strange criticism but today makes a lot of sense. Kindness and positive communication are the grease the spins the wheel of productivity. Teamwork matters and those who can’t play well with others will not succeed for long.

When you build positive relationships based on respect and kindness, it pays off. You begin by repairing damaged relationships and building trust. It takes time. The external productivity gains may not be appear at once but they will come. The internal rewards—feeling better about yourself and the world, lower blood pressure, etc.—are immediate. How can you get more done with kindness? Here are some tips:

Apologize. Thoughtfully examine your past behavior and apologize to those you have wronged. You will discover the amazing healing power of the sincere apology. A sincere apology contains no excuses, blame or minimization. And it never includes the word “if,” as in “if you were offended.” Just say you’re sorry for being offensive. When you take responsibility for yourself, you create stronger relationships than ever before, ones where people actually want to help you succeed.

Make amends. Try to make right those situations where you were unfair or hurtful. If you have yelled at someone or forced people to work late because you procrastinated, for example, stop doing that. Apologies don’t matter if you don’t change your behavior accordingly.

Give people the benefit of the doubt. When coworkers make rare mistakes, cut them some slack. Imagine reasons that diffuse your anger. Perhaps her child has an illness. Maybe his mother just died. As Plato once wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Communicate assertively, not aggressively. When someone shows a pattern of behavior (e.g., chronic mistakes, tardiness, etc.) that needs to change, address it respectfully and directly. Forget the raised voice, personal comments and hyperbole. Instead, speak calmly and focus on the behavior, not the person. “I need you here at 8 AM sharp” creates better results than “Stop being such a slacker.” Implement the old Southern expression: “Say what you mean and mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.” You don’t have to become a wuss; you just need to stop being abusive.

When you adopt these measures, your productivity will soar. You’ll get greater respect from others. Best of all, work will be less of a struggle and more of a joy.