When did being Polite become an Anomaly?

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In our overly friendly and casual era, filled with too much personal information, when did simply being polite make you strange?

Yesterday, I tried to give up my chair at a table to someone who had a plate full of food (I was finished eating) and my fellow diners thought this was strange. I thought it was polite. I know how difficult it is to eat standing up, especially knife and fork required conference food. I knew if it was me, I would end up wearing more than half of what was on my plate if I had not eaten at the table.

This encounter got me thinking, I say please and thank you and may I, regularly. Only recently did I notice that these civilities make some people look at me strangely. Someone even commented that I would grow tired of using these civilities. I doubt that will happen. After 27 years, I still wave at everyone I pass, ask, “how are you,” and truly wait for the answer. If this makes me strange, I intend to keep being strange.

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It’s ok to Decline Invitations

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Even though most work places have a clause in the handbook forbidding employees from soliciting their co-workers for fundraisers, the never-ending invitations to Silpada and Pampered Chef and Avon parties after hours can be dizzying.

While at first it might seem that in order to fit in you have to attend every single party, I’m here to tell you that isn’t true. It is ok to decline an invitation or have a prior engagement. You can choose to only attend the parties you want to and not feel pressured to buy anything.

There are several ways to decline an invitation. You can simply say, “I’m so sorry, but I already have plans for that evening.” You can be truthful and say the parties make you uncomfortable. You can say you’re just not interested i the product. Figure out what works for you, but be honest.

Now, that we have established that you don’t have to attend every after work event, it is a good idea to attend one every now and then. It gives you an opportunity to socialize outside of the office environment and get to know your co-workers in a completely different light. You might be surprised at who you connect with!

Ability to laugh at yourself

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I can’t even begin to tell you how important this trait has been to me, personally and professionally.

Laughter is a great way to diffuse a situation, let people know you aren’t perfect and bond.
Inevitably, I am going to make a mistake. I’m going to let spell check change a word into something else, I’m going to spill coffee all over a white shirt first thing in the morning, but as long as I can laugh at myself, I am not going to care that others are laughing at me.

Recently, I mistook a new co-worker for another new co-worker. The only similarity between the two is they have the same name. When I realized my mistake, we both had a good laugh about it and moved on. It was a bonding experience we wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t mistaken her identity.

Not to mention that laughing also keeps me from dwelling on the mistake I made.

Do you laugh at yourself? When?

Treating Others Fairly

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I’ve almost always been considered “Support Staff” in every job except in a newsroom. Maybe my personality keeps me from being brushed aside, but I also (wrongly) thought that we had moved on from treating secretaries and office assistants as second-class office mates.

Everyone has had an experience in elementary school where someone was left out. Left out of a birthday invitation or left out of a game on the playground. It sucked as a child and it’s even more hurtful and damaging as an adult.

Continued exclusion of your co-workers creates a hostile work environment for everyone.

It wasn’t fair to exclude people as a child. If your parents were anything like mine, you probably got scolded for excluding them, regardless of your reasons. It is even more unfair and beyond that, disrespectful to exclude people as an adult.

If you are going to invite the whole office to a party or get together, make sure you invite the whole office. Even the people you don’t necessarily like. Not only will it go toward creating a goodwill bridge with that person, but also you might find you like them a lot better in the non-office setting.

Perfectionism

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Like most Millennials, I am a perfectionist. I want everything to be perfect in all aspects of my life.

A colleague commented to me yesterday that if a particular project I’ve worked really hard on, doesn’t have any glitches and doesn’t need any changes, then I’ve set the bar pretty high for myself. I mentioned that what the final version doesn’t show is the several hours of errors that I worked through to make sure the final version was perfect.

That conversation got me thinking about the sheer amount of effort it takes to be perfect or at least perceived as doing things perfectly and how that relates to respect in an office environment.

Would my peers respect me more if they saw the process and knew all the times I failed before I got it right? Maybe. But while my peers might respect me more, I know my superiors would prefer to only see the finished and perfected project and for me not to waste their time.

How do you walk the line between wanting your office mates to respect you and ensuring you maintain the standards you’ve set for yourself and your supervisors expect?