My dad (Emily’s grandson) loved sayings like “The best is the enemy of the good.” That was one of his favorites. As kids, we would be angsting about getting some project ready, and the constant reworking and the refusal to declare it “done” would threaten whether it would ever be ready.
Now, I realize that his advice flies in the face of the standard to always produce the best. But I can see where he was coming from. The danger of pursuing the best is that you never finish or, in your search for perfection, you end up botching something that was perfectly good to start with.
Another phrase I heard more than once was, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” If you are positive in the way you interact with someone, you have a better chance of having a good result than if you treat the person rudely. Bosses of the world: etch that phrase in your brain. Every time you’re about to dump on an employee, take a moment to think about how your actions will affect that person. Sure, you may have right on your side; the person screwed up. But how will you both correct the situation and move on in the next minute, hour, week or month to come?
For example: It looks like a supplier is going to miss a deadline. You could rant and rave or you could express your frustration (and still make your point) but keep your anger in control. That way the focus stays on the deadline problem rather than on your anger. Two things accrue to you: You have a better chance of the supplier making an effort to correct the problem ASAP, and you have a much better chance of having the supplier deliver future work on time and to the highest quality.
The honey and vinegar phrase reminds me of another maxim I came across when researching The Etiquette Advantage in Business. I heard it from the Gallup organization: “People join companies; they leave managers.” When a person arrives on his first day at a new job, he’s excited by the new challenge and opportunity. Unfortunately, a boss who dishes out vinegar can quickly turn that euphoria into negativity. The better approach for the boss, the employee, and the company is for the boss to lead using honey not vinegar.
The maxim holds true for employees, too. As they go about their work on a daily basis, how they choose to interact with their fellow employees matters. Treat people pleasantly and the entire office atmosphere benefits; but when people grump and grumble and leave a trail of vinegar in their wake, the atmosphere turns toxic and that is no good for the employee, for managers, or for the company.
Honey versus vinegar? A little honey makes a difference.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.