Why Being Polite in the Workplace is Underrated (and Misunderstood)

We'd like to think that efficiency is more important than politeness, but the fact is that this lost art should be trending now more than ever.

Why Being Polite in the Workplace is Underrated (and Misunderstood)
Be Kind and Polite in the Workplace

What's the worst part of working in an office? To many people, it's having to interact with other people, especially if they are not polite.

After all, don't you hate it when someone makes a mistake, but instead of apologising for it, they get defensive?

Or when someone does something wrong, but instead of taking responsibility for their mistake, they somehow blame you?

Or when someone is just plain rude and even a bully to others!

Don't be a bully
Don't be a bully

Don't you hate it when the workplace becomes toxic? I know I do.

That's why I've made a point of being polite in the workplace — ever since I first realised that being polite had to be learned and practised.

No one wants to be on the receiving end of someone else's negative attitude or condescending tone, and it only makes work more stressful and less enjoyable overall.

Unfortunately, not being polite in the workplace is something we've come to accept as part of doing business in the modern world, but it doesn't have to be that way.

The lost art of being polite in the workplace

Politeness in the workplace isn't something that we hear about much anymore. But there was once a time when it was not only valued but critical to the day-to-day functions of business and communication.

The lost art of being polite in the workplace
The lost art of being polite in the workplace

Today, being polite in the workplace seems to be a lost art. Its importance is diminished by unprofessional behaviour like calling people out on their poor grammar or texting during meetings.

However, politeness in the workplace remains as relevant today as it did in the past, so here are some tips on how to bring it back into your work life.

The value of politeness in the workplace

With more young people entering workplaces than ever before, some believe that politeness isn't as common anymore. However, that isn't necessarily true!

This can vary by organisation and industry. Regardless of age, politeness is often an overlooked value in today's world, where businesses compete for talent. In fact, 93% of employers cite soft skills like teamwork as essential for new hires.

One way to build a culture of respect and teamwork is by being polite at work.

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Need more reasons to create a more polite workplace? Here are five.

It helps people make a good impression

There's a difference between politeness and being friendly. Being polite is more of a strategic way of showing respect to other people (and yourself) while adding value at work.

Different studies have found that employees who are thanked for their work are more engaged than those who aren't.

It builds stronger relationships

Whether you want your employees working together better, being polite helps foster better relationships.

Being polite helps people be at ease around each other

It's important for people at work to feel comfortable. If you throw out a few random hello's or good morning's, others are more likely to greet you with a smile when they walk by your desk.

It also shows that you acknowledge your employees, making them feel like they really matter.

On top of that, if someone is being difficult or not very kind, polite words can help defuse tense situations.

By reinforcing politeness (and hopefully modelling it as well), everyone can stay calmer at work — which means better productivity.

It helps with teamwork
It helps with teamwork

It helps with teamwork

All too often, people get caught up in their work and responsibilities. They forget about other people, both as colleagues and human beings.

Getting away from that mentality is crucial if you want to be a successful professional. Being polite shows your employees that you respect them, regardless of position or status. And really being polite requires more than just saying please or thank you.

You should act politely out of habit, not because your employees or coworkers are looking over your shoulder.

It helps employees relieve stress.

Even when no one is watching, being polite can significantly reduce stress. After all, stress is considered a hazard in the workplace.

Being civil at work can prevent unnecessary arguments over unimportant issues. Additionally, if people are polite to someone else at work, they can look forward to them reciprocating during future stressful times.

People like helping people who have helped them before. Studies have found that people who engage in more pro-social behaviours are less likely to report having experienced a stressful event that day. This is regardless of the number of stressors they reported experiencing.

The researchers also found that women were more likely than men to report participating in pro-social behaviour and experiencing stress relief as a result.

So, what can you as a leader do to make politeness a trend again?

How can you bring politeness in the workplace back?

#1 Set the example by being polite yourself with others in the workplace

The most basic of politeness is thanking everyone for their help and saying please and thank you.

But that doesn't go far enough. There are many other ways you can be polite in your office, whether it be asking others about how they are doing or holding doors open for others.

It sounds like too much, but you'd be surprised by how rare these actions are in some offices. By setting an example of politeness, you can help spread good manners around your entire company.

#2 Make 'being polite' part of your company culture

Before you get frustrated at your employees for not being as polite as you'd like, take a moment to check whether your company culture allows for politeness.

If employees are feeling stressed and overworked, politeness is likely one of those things that will fall by the wayside. So, the next time you're considering doing away with activity because it takes up too much time or money, ask yourself if that activity supports a respectful culture.

It could be something simple like inviting employees out for coffee every once in a while, or maybe something bigger like having offsite retreats at which everyone can discuss cultural values.

Also read: How To Practice Kindness at Work

#3 Address rudeness when you see it by coming up with creative solutions

Conventional solutions to workplace rudeness are ineffective.

Rudeness won't stop being uncivil or disrespectful if you just ignore it, just like trash on the street won't magically disappear when you look away. What will change things is creativity.

You need to brainstorm ideas on how you can turn discourteous conduct into an opportunity for positive change within your company. No more sweeping inappropriate behaviour under the rug!

Just because someone misbehaved doesn't mean they're a terrible person or that they intended any offence. They may have been having a bad day.

#4 Don't nitpick or demean others

How often do you find yourself nitpicking or criticising others? All humans are guilty of doing it.

However, being polite in the workplace means that you shouldn't nitpick or demean others, even if it's a delicate situation. Try to be as honest as you can about a situation without hurting anyone's feelings.

"I'm sorry" is always a good way to start, but it'll have more impact if you follow it with a personal comment.


In Summary

Being polite in the workplace may seem like a small thing. However, it can create a huge impact, both in your personal relationships with employees and in your company's culture as a whole.

A little politeness can go a long way. It can help improve productivity, strengthen the relationships you have with everyone, and foster a friendly environment that will make each day at work an enjoyable one.

In the end, being thoughtful and attentive toward others will help you to forge stronger relationships over time. And it never hurts to be a little bit more polite.

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