Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Law of Friendliness?

“Friendliness should come from inside,
not from Human Resources.”
This is what I heard the talking head on NBC news say after he reported on a story in the Wall Street Journal about a business that was requiring employees to be friendly. Here’s how it worked:  If employees came within ten feet of each other they were required to make eye contact.  If they came within five feet of each other, they had to greet each other. I forget the name of the company requiring this, but when I heard this, I laughed.
I could imagine the TYPE of eye contact that would be made between employees who did not like each other, but are forced to connect eyeball to eyeball.
(It is called "Mad-Dogging" in the gang world.) Oh, and the greeting at the five foot marker would probably include the same icy-ness.  Within a matter of seconds the whole office would freeze over, but the rules will have been followed!
I imagine a few people, instead of exchanging company required glares, would conjure up all their junior high school acting ability and sing out a falsetto, “Hellooooo Judy. How are you this fine day?” This greeting would be dripping with so much sarcasm that the office floors would be sticky for days after the exchange. But rules would have been followed!
I agree with the NBC reporter. Kind of. Friendliness should come from the inside, not from Human Resources. I agree in that I don’t think that HR should be telling us to greet each other and make eye contact.  I think they need to stick to the basics like:  “Employees must be respectful of each other while working.”  Or as they like to put it: “(Continued from page 435, section 14, part M) Employees within this organization, whether represented or unrepresented, are expected to conduct themselves with a high level of respect and regard for each other in order to create a work experience for all that is conducive to learning and productivity and cultivates an empowered and efficient…” Blah blah blah…You know how it goes. But nowhere in the employee handbook does it say HOW I have to be respectful.  It doesn't say I have to exchange eye contact, greetings, hugs or flowers with anyone I don’t like. I just have to be civil. Because friendliness comes from the inside, right?
Not sure about that one. Sure, I guess it does, but WHERE inside?  My gut? My heart? Or is it a little higher? Maybe that explains my angina? Indigestion? Heartburn? 
Or maybe it comes from somewhere else.
Friendliness comes from humility.
Humility comes from realizing that everyone is a child of God. From recognizing that everyone matters. From realizing that how I treat others is a direct reflection of whether or not I believe God loves them as much as he loves me. I am no better than anyone in God’s eyes. I am as loved by God as the guy with the snort laugh in the cubicle next to me. As much as the sweaty lady with the whiny voice and the high maintenance personality. Even the one I wouldn’t greet if we were the only two people left in the office on a Friday night and he had an XL pizza.
Unfortunately, pride, jealousy, and selfishness can stifle humility and limit or destroy friendliness.  Co-workers don’t say hello. We throw each other under the bus. A few “forget” to invite “Debbie Downer” out to lunch.  Again. We back stab in the hallways and lunch rooms. So Mr. Human Resources Guy in the 80’s tie has to step in for an 8 hour training. After he wrangles with his flickering laptop for forty-five minutes cursing under his breath, he turns to a room full of sleepy, resentful employees who want to go to lunch and says: 
“OK kids, it’s evident you don’t have enough friendliness inside of you so we are going to DEMAND friendliness. In fact, friendliness is so crucial to this company’s success that we are going to make it a LAW that you have to be friendly. Starting today, if you do not “meet and greet” as we require, you will be disciplined. If you cannot smile at each other from ten feet away, your evaluation will show that you are not complying with this company’s friendliness policy. If someone looks you in the eye, you must return the eye contact or you will be put on a work plan until you can demonstrate the proper amount of friendliness.”
Wow, that doesn’t sound very friendly. You mean, I have to be nice or else? Is that what it has come to? In some cases according to the Wall Street Journal, I guess so. Luckily, not at my work and hopefully not at yours. 
I think the “friendliness law” shows two things that have gone wrong with the world:
1) We have forgotten the Golden Rule.

2) We need silver & bronze rules to enforce the Golden one.
The Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you-- is found in nearly every religion.  Simply put, it means to treat others the way you want to be treated.  It is supposed to help us play nicely with others. If you think about it, it sounds nice, but even this rule is a bit selfish. It’s all about me.
I don’t like to be left out.  So I shouldn’t leave you out.
I don’t like to be gossiped about.  So I won’t talk bad about you behind your back.
I like to be hugged therefore I will hug you. Oh sorry, didn't know you were one of those people with strict personal space boundaries. Please don't go to HR!
The Golden Rules starts with me thinking about myself and how I want to be treated. It works for the most part because I am really, really good at thinking about myself and how I want to be treated. I like eye contact and friendly greetings. Now if I could just treat you the same way...hmmmm….that is the hard part. I can't seem to do that as consistently as I like, especially with certain people. Looks like you're going to have to make it mandatory and tape up a "Golden Rule" sign in the break-room next to the poster about the United Way "Dancing with HR" fundraiser.
The Golden Rule starts with me.  But what if I start with YOU?
What if I think of YOU as a child of God, created by God and loved by God?  Yes, even you – the one who shows up late to work and complains about your endless health problems. Even YOU, the noisy person in the cubicle next to me who forces me to wear construction worker headphones just to finish my budget report.  Even YOU, the one whose evaluation should say: “DISMISSED!”
In this case, friendliness wouldn’t come from within, but it wouldn’t come from the HR either. Friendliness would come from even higher. (Sorry HR folks, I know you thought you were at the top.) Mother Teresa is quoted as saying that she saw God in every person. She said that if we have no peace it is because that we have forgotten we belong to each other. She got her friendliness from her devotion to God. She was friendly to dying lepers because she knew that as she wiped their wounds, she was loving them just as Christ did, in fact, she was loving Christ. God called them friend, why shouldn’t she? And if God can be friendly enough toward us to send his Son to ensure that our friendship with Him lasts forever, then I guess I can make eye contact with you if you come within ten feet of me.  Oh, and maybe even smile, too.  After all, Human Resources, uh-- I mean God, is watching.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013

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