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Too Busy to Be Kind?

I was teaching Better Business Writing the other day, and we were talking about communication style differences. An attendee told me something like this about her boss:

“My boss never says please, thank you, hello, or anything nice in email. He just tells me to do things. For instance, he’ll send an email that says ‘Don’t forget to include these figures in the proposal’ or ‘Be sure this goes out in today’s mail.'”

When I asked her whether she thought it was simply a style difference between them, she said, “Maybe, but it’s very rude.”

Could you be that rude boss? If so, take a few seconds to spread a little kindness. I timed myself typing the words below. Notice how little time it takes to communicate kindness and consideration.

Please. (2 seconds)
Would you please (3 seconds)
Thanks.  (2 seconds)
Thank you! (3 seconds)
Thanks very much. (4 seconds)
Good morning. (3 seconds)
Hello. (2 seconds)
I appreciate it. (4 seconds)
I hope you had a great weekend. (5 seconds)
Enjoy your lunch. (5 seconds)

Isn’t it worth it to invest a few seconds to raise an employee’s morale? If you are reading this blog, I bet you enthusiastically agree. But if the boorish boss is part of your team, why not share this post? Maybe he will even thank you.

Good luck!


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

5 comments on “Too Busy to Be Kind?”

  • Hi,
    saying (so called) nice things definitely is not a thing you need for living, however it is nice to hear things like that, even despite they do not bring immediate value to the business, your every-day operation is somehow better more positive and enthusiastic. I did not have good experience from my previous job in terms of boss-employee (here:me) relation. Some time ago I moved to different company (different country as well) where my boss was a very charismatic person, but at the same time he is very optimistic. There is probably no thing on Earth that would not be ‘fantastic’ for him. That was a bit confusing for me at the begining, but I think even if things do not go as he wishes that helps him to overcome difficulties.
    From the other hand I am working with another company at the moment. Here saying ‘fantastic’ is rather cosidered to be sarcastic (which was what I felt before). People are saying things like: ‘thank you’ etc. at almost every occassion. I do not find *that* ‘thank you’ as optimistic and even motivating, as my previous bosses’ (sorry I forgot where that apostrofe goes 🙂 ‘fantastic’.
    Conclusion: IMHO saying ‘thank you’s ‘ is good, it is helpful and polite, however there are some other words that can be used to make people around you even more positive – obviously there must be always good will and an effort taken to give and not only to take 😉

  • hi,
    Every business is totally dependent on the employees. If the employees are happy and enthusiastic, the work atmosphere in the office will be encouraging for all the others. So it is the responsibility of the officials to encourage the employees if they want to progress.

  • I appreciate r2r’s comment on communicating positively. A positive attitude is typically infectious and uplifting and is a key part of persuasive communication.

  • What a delightful piece, and I love the fact that you have taken the time to identify how long it would take to type the kind words you refer to. Sadly all too often people use email as they would speak in a conversation. ie Type without thinking – no allowance for checking the content – they just say what they want to say and generally with an ommision of politeness and kindness. Good luck in your quest. I shall be directing people to you from our blog now that I have discovered you. You have some really good posts and articles.

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