Sep 1 2011

A Community of Employees

A Community of Employees

One of the most memorable moments in a valedictorian speech that I’ve heard or read was at my sister-in-law’s graduation from Northwestern about 10 years ago. The speaker’s closing line was something like “Most of all, when you go out into the world, remember to be kind to other people.  It’s one of the best things you can do for the world.”

It’s not as if people are generally trained or predisposed to be UNkind to each other. But respecting other people and being kind to them is sometimes elusive in our busy lives. I think one of the things that makes Return Path more of a community and less of just a “place of work” is this one of our 13 core values:

We are obsessively kind to and respectful of each other

Kindness and respect in the workplace start with the seemingly trivial.  Holding doors open for colleagues, cleaning the coffee machine, helping someone lug a big jug of water and lift it onto the dispenser, and saying a simple “thank you” or “well done” here and there are all acts of kindness and respect. These might seem trivial, but don’t discount the trivial in life.  Being vigilant about the small things sets the right tone for the big things, sort of like the “broken windows” theory of policing says about crime. An atmosphere where people seek out opportunities to help with things like the coffee machine is likely an atmosphere where people seek out opportunities to collaborate on solving problems or cover for a vacationing colleague.

The small things lead to the big things.  We take fit incredibly seriously here.  Fit doesn’t mean that we all have to be the same type of person, or that we all have to like the same kinds of food.  But it means that you have to be kind.  You can be totally frank and direct and challenge authority (more about that in a future post) and still be kind and respectful.  Being a Bull in a China Shop doesn’t work here.

And that’s the difference between a pace to work and a community.