This guest post is by Erin Palmer. Erin works with the online programs from Villanova University, such as their masters degree in human resources and human resources certificationprograms. Follow her on Twitter @Erin_E_Palmer.
I once had a grocery store clerk accidently ring up some cereal that belonged to the person in line behind me. By the time I noticed it, I had already finished paying. I handed the cereal to the other customer and turned to leave. The customer, the cashier and the bagger all looked at me like I was crazy. They told me I could go to customer service and get a refund, but I said that it was no big deal. Apparently, it was. As I walked away, they were staring at me as if I had opened the cereal and dumped it all over the floor. Was it really that odd that I paid for a stranger’s cereal?
This experience made me realize how small acts of kindness aren’t seen as often as they should be. I think that kindness is a quality that can never be overused, particularly in human resources. HR sees people at their most vulnerable moments. When employees are expecting their first child, forced to take a medical leave of absence or dealing with a death in the family, they turn to HR. Sensitive times require sensitive people.
HR also represents the company as a whole. Every interaction that an HR professional has at work is a reflection of the company and the brand. No one wants to support a company full of nasty people. It only takes one negative experience for a bad reputation to begin. Basic manners and friendliness can go a long way towards making a good impression.
When I was interviewing for my current job, HR was the first department that I interacted with. Everyone was incredibly nice and went out of their way to be helpful. Before I even met with the hiring manager, I already felt really good about the company. The pleasantness of the HR department didn’t stop after I was hired. If I ever need anything, I know that HR will do whatever they can to help.
It is not hard to be nice, in your personal or professional life. We are human, so there will be days when we are angry or tired or frustrated because our favorite sports team keeps losing. No one is happy every moment of every day, but it never hurts to smile through the bad moments. I know that if a stranger ever buys me a box of cereal, it will make my day. I will smile and say “thank you.” The next morning when I’m in a pre-coffee funk, that act of kindness will remind me to be a better person. I can’t imagine a sweeter start to the day!