Several years ago I was observing a father and son throwing a baseball at a ballpark when another man rudely snapped at the father and son telling them to move to another part of the park. The father replied to the rude man, “Why do you have to be like that?” The truth is, he didn’t. The man could have accomplished his objective in a much more positive manner because he didn’t need to “be like that” to get them to move. Since then this phrase, “Why do you have to be like that?” has resonated with me quite often. It is a simple phrase, yet it continues to impact me in my personal life and in the workplace practically every day. I think we would agree that it is much more pleasant to work within a culture of positive values, respect, trust, cooperation and enjoyment than the opposite. In my opinion, a company can get desired results and even be more productive in a positive culture, where people feel valued and respected. As my grandma would say, “It’s a lot easier to attract bees with honey than vinegar!”
Let’s think about the opposite: disrespectful, untrusting, unpleasant employees…while no one wants to believe the company culture could be like that, the truth is we can find examples all the time and you just want to stop and say, “Why do you have to be like that?” What I have found is corporate cultural behavior spreads very quickly. Disrespect breeds disrespect, distrust breeds distrust. What potentially starts from the leader in an organization quickly becomes accepted behavior and becomes the corporate culture.
We have heard the expression “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” That should not imply “Do to others what is done to you.” Sure, there are managers out there that feel they need to be harsh to get results, perhaps because they were treated that way. But what if we flipped the script? Instead of having others ask, “Why do you have to be like that?” what if they said, “How can I be like that?” Be the positive influence in the company and it will make an impact. I use the line “An organization is in the hands of a few.” To senior leaders in an organization, the few may mean the Executive Team, CEO, COO or President. To the entry level employee the few may mean his/her boss, second level manager or local team leader. So if this is true, then a few can make a big impact on an employee’s perception of an organization. I have been fortunate to be considered, “one of a few” as a manager of a team. This recognition of the impact I have on a team helps me stay humble. Remember the culture starts with you and impact players can be anywhere in an organization. Walk humbly and you will see your impact on your company’s culture.
I’m sure your company has corporate values (Ethics, Respect, Teamwork, Honesty, Integrity and Accountability, to name a potential few.) These values need to become personal values and not just seen as corporate aspirations. I have found that I can make our corporate values more personal when I ask the question, “Do I have to be like that?” The answer is, I don’t. I can choose to be positive. Additionally, I should always assume positive intent until I fully know otherwise. This mental exercise has helped me more than any other thing. Most people are not out to undermine you, so assume they mean well. Sometimes people live messy lives outside of the workplace and it radiates to work. What you hear or read as a snarky email, may just be a bad day. Assume that the sender’s attitude has nothing to do with you. By adapting this one idea, it can save a lot of frustration.
When I was asked to write an article for Vendor Views, I thought about several topics. I decided on this topic as I remembered we are still in the people business. Character counts! Show others the character you want seen and exhibited by others. Assume positive intent whenever you can. Be truthful, noble, reputable, trustworthy, authentic, gracious, and humble. Put into practice asking yourself, “Why do I have to be like that?” because the truth is, you don’t. There is always a way to be positive and get the same results. Be your best you and see the best in others. Then you will start to see others around you asking themselves, “How can I be like that?” and emulating your positive behavior.
*Director of Sales, Walmart & Sam’s Club – Keurig Dr. Pepper
*Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written.
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search.