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Is he polite or kind?

The higher a person ranks in an organisation, the more likely it is that they’re hyper-disconnected.

This is quite a position for Steve Taylor, the author of the book Disconnected, to take.

Hyper-disconnected people focus on their own ambitions and desires and feel completely separate from the rest of the world. They compulsively need power, wealth, and success, and and may have narcissistic or psychopath traits' They don’t nurture relationships and they’re never satisfied with what they have.

They are criminals, abusers, and sometimes CEOs or team leaders.

They are efficient, ruthless, and yes – they are polite.

They are the kind of people who send you a thank-you note after being invited to your children's birthday party, a sorry note when you lose your job, a plant when you first move into the neighbourhood. They will certainly knock on your door to ask if you need any help writing a report when you are back from paternity leave.

And yet they don’t care.

When did we start confusing politeness with kindness?

Since when have measured words from a script been the equivalent of empathy and caring?

We create meaningless reach-out rituals to show that we’re inclusive, respectful, and compliant with the latest corporate diversity standards, but do we really care?

Without following up there is no actual caring, which is the foundation of kindness. Without a real intention to help, meaning that the question you’re asking or the help you’re offering is made at the right time, in the right tone and space, and is accessible to the person you’re addressing, you’re just being polite.

When politeness is more about adhering to societal rules than about behaving in a way that allows people in the room to feel equal and included, we have a problem.

I’m talking about when you’re asked in a team meeting how you are after you’ve been off sick, but given no space or time for your answer –and there is no space and time after the meeting either. Zero. Done and dusted.

When politeness became the language of power and dictates how we connect with one another, we are deprived of the simple act of caring and empathy as a valuable expression of leadership.

Politeness can be writing a thank-you note when you don’t care about the person, knocking on his office door and asking if you can help when you know he will very likely refuse your offer.

Sometimes we use politeness to make us feel superior to others who can’t behave as we do. When politeness becomes a competition to reach the pinnacles of formality we may as well simply call it off.

There’s no value in reaching out to others when you don’t care.

Let’s make that clear.

When we dismantle the value of empty politeness in the workplace we reveal those hyper-disconnected individuals imposing their language of power and disconnection.

We don’t need to accept their terms.

We can choose to be kind and caring and still write a thank-you note that actually means something.

We can make time to ask difficult questions and have uncomfortable conversations that many people who consider themselves polite will certainly avoid.

There is a difference and there is a choice between those who want to connect and those who want to look like as if they connect.



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