Courtesy not the soft option when under pressure

When businesses are under pressure, when people are under pressure, when money is tight, when deadlines are tight, courtesy is not a soft option.

Under pressure, it’s much easier to boss our way about, ignore everyone else and focus only on what we have to do. Of course, then we forget that every other individual could be doing the same: bossing their way about, ignoring everyone else and focusing only on what they have to do. The result is an organisation that doesn’t work together, that doesn’t co-operate, that operates in an atmosphere of friction. Productivity, co-operation, business processes, customer service all suffer: as do the business and the individuals.

Who in their right minds could think that courtesy could improve matters? Stopping to say hello to every employee and ask how they are would slow things down, especially if a company is short-staffed and customers are waiting. Wouldn’t courtesy be a drag?

Not when common sense is applied. Yes, people need to work fast when there is a deadline, although when shown respect, people often pull together naturally to help out. Being rude and ignoring people destroys team spirit. If people can’t see we’re busy, we can tell them: “Sorry, I’ve got a deadline to meet. Can we talk about this later?” Most people will understand. On those occasions when someone comes to us with a problem that is as important as the matter we’re currently handling, then effective management is required to prioritise actions.

Whatever happens, however busy we are, we can still be courteous, albeit briefly. When deadlines have been met, customers satisfied and things slow down, we can give people our full attention.

Courtesy is easier to practise when life is going smoothly; it’s a far more difficult challenge and far more important when life is fraught. Then being courteous strengthens team spirit, encourages co-operation and equips an organisation to succeed however tough the going, but it’s not the easy course.

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