“Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in a business.” – PT Barnum
The loss of civility in politics has been ongoing for years, but it has only been since the pandemic that I noticed a similar decline in civility in the Tampa Bay business community. This is not just a business problem but an employee/customer problem. Nobody is blameless; we all lack patience, grace, and gratitude today. I can’t speak to what is going on nationally, my business is focused entirely in Tampa Bay, but I suspect it is similar.
Let’s be realistic, everyone is going to have a bad day, it happens. But when you chat with your boss, or complain to a manager, those complaints usually make it into a computer system somewhere and it will be remembered for all time. Businesses don’t need to rely on memory to determine what your language was like. They don’t need to question if their impression of you was wrong. In many cases, that email, voicemail, or text can be saved right into their computer system. They will always know who you are, what you said, how you said it, and the result of that exchange.
In business, your reputation matters. People want a reasonable level of expectation they are making the right decision to work with you as a business or employee. Your reputation helps provide confidence with that decision. To prove our decisions, individuals will look at the social reviews your company has received or your social media posts. We want to see who you are. Ultimately, I am not interested in what YOU say about YOU, but rather what others say about you. I am looking at social media, calling references, and checking in with my friends in the Tampa Bay area to see if anyone knows anything about you. It’s amazing how many times we have had candidates who have accepted an interview somewhere only to turn it down later because of the reviews they have read.
Where Did Friendliness Go?
I used to chuckle when I walked into a business in Tampa Bay and saw the name plate at the front desk. It would give the persons name and then it would list the title as “Director of First Impressions”. That person has a tough job. Not everyone they speak to is friendly, and the calls they get can often be labeled as spam. (If I get one more phone call myself about listing my business on Google, I may scream.) BUT…and this is a HUGE but…how gracious and friendly that person is, has a tremendous impact on how people view your business.
With both employers and employees in the Tampa Bay area, we aren’t seeing a tremendous amount of effort to be remembered positively. While I have no doubt inflation, fear, and worry are playing a leading role in our actions. There really isn’t an excuse for the language we hear on the phones, the swearing we see in texts, or the rudeness we see in emails. There is a culture war taking place between employees with demands and businesses with expectations. It is leading to frustration with all parties and the response has been a increase in our loss of civility unfortunately.
Civility is a choice. What we say, and how we say, is completely within our control. To be fair, I can think back to any number of times in my career where I made choices that were frowned upon and I am not proud of, I am not immune to this myself. But today I am also challenging my team to double down on our warmth and friendliness because I see significant opportunity to stand out in this market and build real relationships with people. It’s easy to be angry today, everyone has a reason. There is no question it takes work to stay positive, patient, and understanding. But that is the challenge I hope more people undertake right now. As a society, we need it.