Compliments of sensesmaybenumbed via Flickr

Why is it that when we see compassion, unexpected kindness, or selfless acts, we are many times moved to tears? Perhaps grace pulls at our heartstrings because it’s such a rare occurrence.

I’m left pondering the reasons for our lack of civility
– the spirit of which is encapsulated in popular culture. The following is from the trailer “teaser” for Celebrity Apprentice: “Will there be backstabbing, lying, sarcasm and insults? Don’t throw me under the bus because I’ll back it up and hit you with it.”

Although a “me first” attitude is an outgrowth of our materialistic culture, it could signal a much deeper problem – our “ends” versus “means” mentality.  Tim O’Connell argued that The Healthy Workplace Bill might in fact undermine productivity, pointing to the example of Steve Jobs as a demanding boss who humiliated employees in the process. This seems to be a spurious correlation, particularly when you consider that one of Google’s mottos is “Do no harm,” and the fact that past employers have been handsomely rewarded for honoring their people; as in
(1) competitive advantage derived from organizational winners of the OFCCP award and (2) enhanced firm performance from companies that effectively manage their diversity.

I would love to see a bottom line results study of companies that have civility policies (compared with those that don’t). I imagine that a whole host of variables (including organizational commitment, insurance claims, EAP visits, absenteeism, and turnover) would be positively impacted, which (taken as a whole), could dramatically enhance the bottom line.

Employees’ initial sense of decency may be usurped by the ethical gymnastics involved in their daily horse-trading at work. It then stands to reason that workers need to be encouraged to be kind through policy implementation. If left to their own devices, compassion might occur more often than not only when it suits their purposes.

I love the line from the movie “W:” “Treat every person you meet as if they were going to die at midnight, and give them all the love. Do that, and your life will never be the same.” In his book “The Power of Kindness,” Ferrucci makes the point that leading a compassionate life boomerangs back to the sender. He explains in the United States there is a confounding variable which hampers our efforts: “We live in an era of individualism – to compete with others, to be the best…this is a guiding idea for many people.” He notes that “happier people are more generous” (and have greater self-esteem) because they don’t feel the gnawing need to grab as much as they can for themselves. The mere act of giving thus frees us from mental bondage. That may be the biggest gift there is.

Another benefit of kindness (let alone the unexpected material accoutrements that may follow) is goodwill with your fellow humans. Spitefulness and ego aggrandizement at the expense of another bring hurt feelings, relationships rendered lifeless, and a wall of distance that may be an insurmountable barricade. Your short lived sense of smug satisfaction may degenerate into cold war in which neither party wins, and where you are left with stalemate. If you’ve created a wall of friction, why not engage in organizational diplomacy – (1) admit your mistake; (2) ask forgiveness; and (3) more forward.

The journey toward a more perfect union with other people begins with a single step – that of retrieving the olive branch. Your compatriots will cut you slack only up to a point. When you’ve exhausted your reserve of comity, you may find yourself on the outs with those around you.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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