Dave Conrad: Friendly companies need friendly employees

February 15, 2019

Dear Dave: My company is not a very friendly place to work. I am close to a few of my co-workers, but overall I think that I have a hard time warming up to other employees and they could care less about warming up to me. For example: When I am walking toward another worker in the hallway, they look away, or make it seem like they are focused on a piece of work or their cell phone. I think a simple “hello” would be nice to hear. I am not looking for much, just workers — including managers — being more friendly to each other. Do you know what I mean? Any ideas? — C

Dear C: I sure do know what you mean. Coming from a family of friendly people who would talk to a tree if they could, I grew up thinking everybody was and should be nice to each other and greet each other when meeting. I believed things just worked that way. I know for a fact that I was drawn to other people that thought like I did and they were just nice people who tried to make others feel welcome and accepted.

I’m not saying that I was God’s gift to friendliness and kindness — I just knew that people felt good about being greeted and felt they were worthy of being talked to. I hope I am making this clear. Simply, I believed that people feel included, respected and uplifted if someone took the few seconds it takes to say “Hi” or “How are you doing?”

Have you ever noticed how workers react when you first come up to them — let’s say a service attendant at a convenience store — and you say “Hello. How’s your day going?” They may just quickly say “OK” and indicate things should just move along. But I notice more. I notice that they actually sensed that a small piece of kindness took place and that they were considered to be people, and not robots. And they felt like they were serving real people, instead of just taking money for gas and snacks, or telling people the bathrooms are in the back.

Now, there are some reading my beliefs and are thinking that I am making too big of a deal out of all this and that workers just want to do their work and not have to attend to an additional layer, such as reacting to greetings all day.

Well, I would bet money I am right and that even those appearing to be tough, unfriendly and bristly (I have never used bristly before) people will respond in a somewhat friendly manner, or at least think to themselves that the greeting was sincere and warm, and it made them feel good — even for a brief, fleeting moment.

If you make it a point to be friendly to others, it is not unusual for you to start receiving greetings from those who would ordinarily not give you the time of day. It’s kind of reciprocal, and when people get a gift (your acknowledgement of them), they will, in turn, give you a gift back (their acknowledgement of you). And let’s say that you find yourself on a team with one or more of these people; guess who will see a bit more of their consideration?

Being friendly as a practice

I am not saying that you should bounce around your place of work like some kind of “friendliness clown” or that you should force yourself to try and build lifelong friendships with every person you meet there — I am saying that you should just, plain be friendly. It doesn’t cost a dime to do so, and you will feel great for having been nice to someone.

Friendliness appears when you let someone in line go ahead of you because they appear to be in a hurry. It comes out when you let someone speak when they started a sentence at the same time you did. It comes out when you take a step back to sincerely listen and hear someone out when they are trying hard to get the words out. And friendliness appears when you ask someone if there is any way you can help them — even though you know you might hear them say, “Nope. I’m OK. Thanks.” But, you can still say, “Well, let me know if there is anything I can do.” There is a good chance they may come up to you for help, and you just formed a mini-bond between the other worker and yourself.

You don’t need special training to be authentically friendly — it comes from the heart. I often think how great it would be if people not only were friendly to each other, but also gave of what they had to help someone in need. It could be as simple as sharing knowledge about something you see people struggling with. The challenge is to make friendliness an ongoing practice and not be friendly only when you need something from someone.