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Increase Workplace Productivity by Not Being a Jerk


Some of you are probably thinking “hey, aren’t you the guy who advocated completely ignoring coworkers?”. Well, yes, but that’s only in special cases – like when you need to get things done and they’re interrupting you with relatively unimportant stuff. This post will deal with your overall demeanor (and, subsequently, reputation) in your particular workplace.

We all have a tendency to get a little curt with others when our feet are to the fire – and even when they’re not. I’m here to tell you that while your employer may run like a machine, there are very human components that you must consider when trying to accomplish your goals. Imagine this somewhat-related hypothetical situation:

You’re calling up your bank after they’ve dinged you $25 for overdrawing $1.70 for a cup of coffee at the local Starbucks. An honest mistake, you simply didn’t realize your account was empty. So, you call them hoping to have them reverse the charge (which they sometimes will – try it sometime) and you get Jennifer on the phone. She’s friendly enough, but not the sappy/fake kind of friendly you get from some types of sales personnel. After she finishes thanking you for calling the bank and telling you the phone call will probably be recorded, you’re at a fork in the road. You can do one of the following:

  1. Nicely explain the situation and ask if there’s any way she could reverse the overdraft charge you incurred (also dropping little self-deprecating softeners like “man, I’d lose my head if it weren’t attached”).
  2. Come out swinging and angrily demand that she reverse the charges at once or by golly you’ll take your business elsewhere (even though you’re the one who dropped the ball)

It doesn’t take Stephen Freakin’ Hawking to realize which approach is likely to yield the result you’re after. Remember the old adage “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”? Let’s just say that things like that don’t hang around for decades because they’re worthless – it’s sound advice and it works in many, many situations. Like at work.

There are going to be plenty of situations at work where you’ll require the assistance/intervention of a colleague. In fact, I’m fairly certain that just about anybody reading this who has a regular 9-5-type job will know exactly what I mean. You can’t begin the project until Tom from Procurement has approved your purchase order. You need Ted from A/P to sign off your proposed specification before you can start writing his new check-printing application. You need [somebody] to do [something] before you can do [your work]. Your attitude and approach can seriously make all the difference in situations like this.

“Hey Tom – I’m kinda in a holding pattern on this project – is there any way you could have a look at my PO sometime today? I’d appreciate it!”


“Tom – I’ve been waiting for you to get around to my PO for the last week and a half and I can’t get a damn thing done. I need that PO to be your top priority, OK big guy?!”

Yet another in my long line of hyperbolic examples – but things like this really do happen. Again, you can probably figure out which is the better course of action here.

Now, let me be clear about something – on occasion, you’ll need to brandish your firearm and come off a little aggressive in order to get the job done. Usually this is after repeated attempts to get somebody moving on something and they just can’t seem to get to it. Don’t be a doormat, if you need something done and somebody else is lagging on it, be prepared to get a little red in the face on occasion.

Once you’ve garnered a reputation for being a nice guy/gal around the office, people will be much more receptive when you ask them for something. There is, however, a flip side to this coin: make sure you’re actually doing the thing that involves them. If I ask Nancy in accounting nicely for those TPS reports so I can collate and file them, I need to make sure I collate and file them. People hate to see that, when they took time out to help you out with something, you let it fall by the wayside and didn’t do anything with it (or, at least, not with the urgency with which you asked for their help). If Ted gets you those invoices by 4pm like you asked, make sure you file them by 5pm like you said needed to be done.

People like to be treated nicely and respectfully – that’s just the bottom line. Try this stuff out over the next few days and see just how far it gets you (I’m betting it’ll be further than if you didn’t).

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