Law Practice Management

How to Make Workers Act Nice (Even if They're Not)

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Angry, unpleasant, rude fellow employees, in legal settings and elsewhere, make life a lot less pleasant—and less productive. Increasingly, companies and law firms recognize this fact, and some have even made it a rule, formally or informally, that colleagues can’t behave badly in the workplace.

But requiring everyone at least to pretend to be Mr. or Ms. Nice Guy is one thing. Actually enforcing this rule on a day-to-day basis is quite another. How can this feat be accomplished? A Dallas employment lawyer offers specific, detailed advice to general counsel on this topic in a Texas Lawyer article that also applies to law firms and client companies.

Setting a good example, of course, is crucial. But specific, basic skills—such as discussing issues in person, rather than by e-mail, and remembering to say please and thank-you in a genuinely respectful manner—can make a big difference, Michael Maslanka writes.

It is also critical to encourage staff to speak up in the face of misunderstanding or rudeness, he says, citing his “airplane crash” rule: “airplanes crash because the junior co-pilot sees a blinking red light on the console, thinks if anything was wrong then surely the senior pilot would say something or act, and just as surely thinks to himself that he will not say anything that harms his career or gets him yelled at.”

Managers should be trained on interpersonal skills, encouraged not to manage by e-mail, and taught e-mail etiquette, the article suggests. “If they have anger issues, require them to stop acting out, and give them help. If they can’t stop the bad behavior, give them the boot. Make them understand that being an asshole is counterproductive. My mom told me that you can’t change people, you can only help people. A manager with an inner jerk will always be a jerk, but you can ensure that it doesn’t escape.”

Read the full article.

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