When I heard that author Rosalinda Randall was a civility expert, I wondered how that might apply to our continuing series on “soft skills.” You might learn that being a considerate person is worth considering if you want to ramp up those soft skills.
You consider “consideration” to be a soft skill. Please define it, and why is it important, especially in the workplace?
Well, you don’t want to be known as the office boor, do you? You know the one. He runs ahead of you to make sure he gets the last splash of coffee, leaving just enough drops so that he doesn’t have to make the next pot.
How I define “consideration”: Being aware of what the person is doing before I approach them. Do they look busy? Are they talking to someone? Are they getting ready to make a call? Or to take a bite of their sandwich?
It means being aware of how my actions affect the next person. For example, after making hundreds of copies, taking a moment to refill the copy paper tray.
In other words, leaving a place or situation in a satisfactory state, or better.
Are we more, less or about the same when it comes to practicing consideration than previous generations?
Lack of consideration has always existed; however, in past generations, stronger peer and societal pressure forced us to behave appropriately. Adults corrected children, and children listened (in most cases). Try that today; you’re taking your life into your own hands.
Is the fast-paced life we lead to blame? (A choice in many cases.) Rushing to get from Point A to Point B, we don’t have time for niceties and we can’t let anything get in our way. Can we blame cell phones? Not entirely and certainly not exclusively. Humans are in control—not their phones. Making a cell phone a priority is a choice.
We’ve become a more casual society. As a result, we’ve lowered our expectations, disguising it as less formal and old-fashioned, and accepted less-than as the norm.
How does one learn consideration? In a work setting, most adults come into the workplace with a developed sense of how to act. They might not understand what consideration is or how it works. How do you “retrain” someone?
If only there was a class in “how to be considerate.” Although cliché sounding, learning this and other traits starts at home. Then it is supported by school staff, and then hopefully it becomes ingrained. However, if you missed it at home, you could become aware of acts of consideration when you are the recipient … It feels nice, so you pass it on.
Retraining a person can be a delicate matter, especially in the workplace. Management can post whimsical reminders in the lunchroom or send out regulations by email to remind all staff of the expected protocol.
Specific situations can also be addressed one-on-one, always in private. Is it due to distractions or are they simply a boor? The approach would be different.
Some companies have someone like me provide a workshop on workplace civility to address specific issues or to support their existing policies.
And finally, is leadership setting an example?
Workplace dynamics sometimes resemble a battle of the fittest. Are people who are known as being considerate in the workplace, while praised for this attribute, considered as weak or less than a powerful authority figure?
If someone presumes a considerate person to be weak or meek and expresses that in their attitude, words or actions, they’ll soon find out that a considerate person will confidently, tactfully and politely respond; always maintain a standard of professionalism, never intending to embarrass the boor. That takes self-control, a strength.
I also believe that some people are considerate by nature; without thinking they are courteous to everyone, regardless of position or mood.
You wrote a book, Don’t Burp in the Boardroom - Your Guide to Handling Uncommonly Common Workplace Dilemmas. What prompted you to write the book?
First, I had a lot to say on the subject. Secondly, a business decision to spread the word about my business and more importantly about civility. Lastly, to honor my parents; without their example, who knows, I could have been the “office boor.”
When you see a fellow worker who acts in an inconsiderate manner, what should one do?
Try to keep in mind, what is considered an “inconsiderate act” to one person, may not be to another. Next, it depends on your position, level of familiarity, the specific act, whether it directly affected you and your motive. You can walk away and dismiss it because “that’s just how Jerry is,” report the inconsiderate behavior to a higher up or without being confrontational, discuss it privately with the individual. Tact is key.
What lack of consideration irritates or angers you the most?
If I could only pick one pet peeve, it would have to be people who don’t consider how damaging their “tell-it-like-it-is” attitude can be. Perhaps a little “Pollyanna” but, a little tact and consideration can make things more pleasant for everyone.
Is there a situation that you are acutely aware of that demands you go above and beyond considerate?
Yes. When I disagree with someone’s opinion or someone says something sarcastic or patronizing to me, I consider the source. Will I ever see them again? Does their opinion really matter to me? In most cases, the answer is “no.”
I either choose not to respond, or reply in a tactful and vague manner. Anything, not to fuel the potential fire or lower my standards.
Rosalinda Randall is a civility consultant and the author of Don’t Burp in the Boardroom - Your Guide to Handling Uncommonly Common Workplace Dilemmas. Follow her on facebook at Rosalinda Randall Author, twitter @rosalindatweets or visit www.rosalindrandall.com.