“Kindness really does matter – not only for retaining productive employees, but also for retaining customers.” — Misti Burmeister

Recently, my friend Amy and I were shopping at a specialty-clothing store. As we browsed the merchandise, I couldn’t help but overhear an appalling conversation between one of the sales clerks and her manager.

With almost a sense of desperation, the sales clerk asked, “When can I take a break?”

At first, her manager ignored her. When the clerk repeated her question, the manager responded, “You’ll go on break when I tell you to go on break.”

Perhaps they were functioning with less staff than they needed, so the manager was particularly stressed out. Or perhaps the lady asking for a break was just whiny. But the reasons for the manager’s nastiness simply didn’t matter to me. I walked out without buying anything, because I refuse to support a company where people are treated that way!

Turns out, I’m not the only one. According to Harvard Business Review (HBR): “Research shows that people are less likely to buy from a company with an employee they perceive as rude, whether the rudeness is directed at them or at other employees.”

Kindness really does matter – not only for retaining productive employees, but also for retaining customers (or in cases such as this, beginning a relationship with a customer).

Unfortunately, rudeness in the workplace is on the rise, according to HBR. Over the past 14 years, 98 percent of workers have reported experiencing uncivil behavior. In 2011, half were treated rudely at least once a week – double the number who said the same thing in 1998.

Rude, uncivil treatment of employees rarely starts with the manager; it comes from a lack of strong values in the company’s culture. This is good news for companies willing to clarify their values, insist on kindness throughout the organization, and, better yet, measure the results of such a positive work environment.

So, don’t fool yourself. Kindness matters; in fact, it can make or break your company!

Keeping it simple,

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across GenerationsHidden Heroes and Power Suck.

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