Here’s a simple rule to follow in business and life – don’t be a jerk. Instead make kindness your guiding light.
It seems pretty self-explantory and kind of ridiculous that I even have to say this, but you’d be surprised how many people walk around just acting well, like a jerk.
You can get very far in your career simply by being likable and easy to work with. Your likability in the workplace can and likely will have a significant impact on your career success so it’s to your benefit to not be a jerk. Also, it should go without saying to not be a jerk at home either! I’ve been on the receiving end of that – a partner who took out his work stress on me by constantly snapping at me – and it’s no fun and can be very detrimental to your relationship.
I am a big believer that you can learn so much from people by how they treat those in service industry positions. For example, I remember being so disappointed on date by the dismissive way my dining partner treated a waiter. As a result I never spoke to him again.
It’s so easy to be kind. It’s also so easy to say please and thank you and to smile. By the way, people who smile are actually happier. There are lots of scientific studies that back this up.
Being difficult makes you someone who people want to avoid. It harms your reputation. It makes people gossip about you. It stands in your way of success. There’s no really no reason to be a jerk (unless of course someone was really awful to you – then maybe you should be a jerk or better yet, maybe you should be the bigger person and be kind to them or just ignore them). We all have stresses and outside pressures. We each need to do a better job of putting them in a box so to speak and go into each interaction with a clean slate. Give people the benefit of the doubt and always assume good intent.
At home, don’t take out a bad day on your partner, family member or your kids. Leave work stresses at the front door and enjoy every minute you have with your family. Savor the time you have together while your kids are at home and your parents are still with you. I lost my mom three years ago to cancer, and I long to be able to call her. If you have a parent, don’t take that for granted and certainly don’t be a jerk to them. The same goes with your spouse. If you’re a jerk to your spouse and don’t treat them with love and respect, they may find someone else who isn’t a jerk to them. It’s that simple. Bottom line – always cherish your partner.
I dated a workaholic lawyer who often couldn’t find the right balance between his work and personal life. He wanted to ensure his clients were always happy but that left his children and partner wanting more at home. And he didn’t have time for himself either to go to the gym and to just decompress. Something has to give somewhere to make it all work. So much of that is time management and client management. I would often ask him if his client really needed that document turned around on a Sunday am and wouldn’t the client understand if he told him he would get it to him later in the day so he could spend time with his children? Often we are too afraid to ask because we don’t want to disappoint someone but someone will always be disappointed in a scenario like this.
While I always admired his strong work ethic, I also believe that the client wouldn’t have really cared if the document was turned around at 8am versus 6pm on most Sundays. But his children really cared if they saw their dad that day especially since that was their once a week visitation day with him. Kids remember these things. Your clients will not think you are a jerk if you push back a bit on a deadline sometimes.
Also remember that the sun will rise again and all those work problems and stresses you have will still be there in the am – so put them aside for the time being and enjoy time with those who you care about most. There’s nothing more important than family.
In the workplace, be kind to everyone every day – especially the receptionists, the copy center and mail room teams and records department, and every single secretary and legal assistant with whom you interact. Oftentimes these are the people whose help you need the most. It baffles me when I see junior associates being dismissive to their colleagues like this. That’s a habit that needs to be broken immediately if you find yourself doing it. Always be a team player. Offer to help your colleagues and get to know them on a personal level. Say please and thank you often to everyone with whom you work. Think before you speak and especially before you shoot off a curt email.
Let’s make a promise to ourselves and to others that we won’t be dismissive, snide or rude to anyone in both our personal and professional lives no matter how busy or how much pressure we are under. Let’s be more empathetic and compassionate, and always make kindness the default and give jerk behavior the boot.