One of my favorite things to do with my (much) better half during the holiday season is to watch a few movies.

We have a series of movies that never fail to lift us up and make us smile and laugh (some of them are probably your favorites too, I suspect), but we also try to watch a couple of smaller off-beat movies (not necessarily seasonal) that we just haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

I highly recommend two that we recently watched during our break:

My wife’s choice was Hell or High Water, a brilliant Jeff Bridges movie from 2016.

Mine was Sing Street.

Before I discuss my reasoning behind sharing this with you (and yes, there is a reason!), let me give you a little summary of the movie.

Sing Street is about a boy growing up in Dublin during the 1980s who escapes his strained family life by starting a band to impress the mysterious girl he likes. It is a brilliant story.

I had a sense that I was going to love the movie just because it had a strong Duran Duran soundtrack behind it (that should tell you how old I am), but it impacted me initially for an entirely different and completely unexpected reason.

Sing StreetThe main character transfers schools in Dublin at a very vulnerable time in his life and meets the school bully on his first day. Sound familiar? It did to me, unfortunately.

The adults running the school didn’t help his predicament at all, and in fact actually added to his woes. This was another painful familiarity to me, as this had been my experience during my high school years in the south of England.

Having previously attended a school in a different catchment area, I was new to the school and knew no-one when I turned up at the school gates that first day. I felt extremely alone and extremely vulnerable.

In my policing life, I heard that oftentimes if people ‘look like a victim, they will become a victim,’- an ugly form of self-fulfilling prophecy. It was certainly true in my case and in the case of the main character in Sing Street (initially).

As I watched the film’s main character deal with his bully, I couldn’t help but flashback to my own exposure to bullying. Needless to say, I entirely sympathized with him.

Watching this movie also made me ponder Christine Porath’s new book, Mastering Civility.

There is a section in which she refers to triggers that we all have, and how they can impact certain situations depending on the person.

So here is how this all relates to you and your workplace:

In an office setting, if someone has recently experienced rudeness, they will likely perceive it more greatly than a co-worker who hasn’t experienced any recently. They are tuned into incivility – not because they are ”sensitive people,” but because past experiences have primed them to pick up on incivility more acutely.

This explains why I am hyper-alert to all forms of incivility (including bullying).

Here are some key components I came up with of what actions characterize rudeness:

  • A person constantly interrupting others
  • Someone neglecting to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ (the two most important words in the English language)
  • A person texting during a meeting
  • Someone talking down about another person
  • A person failing to acknowledge the presence of another person
  • Someone using jargon which excludes another person from understanding
  • A person taking another person’s significant contribution for granted
  • Someone belittling another person’s efforts
  • A person showing up late without any explanation or sign of remorse
  • Someone belittling another person non-verbally
  • A person who retreats into e-gadgets constantly
  • Someone who is not civil in emails or other written communication
  • A person who is judgemental of another person who is different than they are
  • Someone who fails to express appreciation for others’ efforts.
  • I understand that no one is perfect.

However, this list of rude behaviour serves as a useful reminder of what not to do and to also reinforce that it doesn’t take much to be polite.

After all, since we are products of our environments, it’s possible that if we have been surrounded by role models who behave in a negative and rude manner, then our lens on what is ‘normal’ is likely to be skewed.

Hurt people HURT people“Hurt people, hurt people” is another truism that plays out time and time again in the world of Respectful Workplaces. This is partly the reason why we now have legislation existing in many areas of the country that essentially says, “Get along with your colleagues at work.”

For me, as with the main character in Sing Street, things played out well in the end and, in fact, those events in the school yard (for both of us) were the catalyst for future success in our lives (of course, I would never wish for anyone to have to endure such treatment in order to be ‘successful’ in life, nor is it necessary in the first place).

Hopefully this post has come at a perfect time with the New Year having just begun.

Let us all take a closer look at our actions in hopes of a more pleasant work environment!

Phil

Sonar Leadership March 01, 2017