The Importance of Not Being Rude

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Being Russian, but raised and educated in Western cultures for most of my life, I have been subjected to very nice people during most of my self-conscious life. Or at least people who do not snap at you for no reason whatsoever. The skill of trusting that the random person you are about to talk to, whether it is a receptionist, a cashier, or anyone else, is not going to yell at you for distracting them (and making them do their job) gives you peace of mind. Except when you are in Russia, which I forget every time I spend a couple of years in the United States and am reminded of the minute I set foot in the motherland.

The idea of customer service is only now catching on in Russia and, even then, is limited to big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. I have no idea why, but Russian people do not have the same concept of being nice to people they do not know as the people in Western cultures. In fact, many Russians who immigrate to the United States at a adult-conscious age (teen years and older) find this niceness quality "fake" and annoying. They do not believe that you should be particularly nice to people that you do not know and should reserve your niceness, love and affection for the people for whom you genuinely feel it.

And maybe those Russians are right...when it comes to personal relationships in your personal life. But at work, it pays to be nice. I have already talked about this in my previous post on which non-financial incentives motivate me at work . One of them is nice colleagues who do not put me down to make themselves feel better.

On the flip side, I remember back to a year ago, when I interviewed with a top management consulting firm for the Moscow office. I flew out to New York extremely excited, little and naive as I was, to meet with consultants from Moscow and imagine what it would be like to work there (a childhood dream that I still hope to  someday realized). I met with a Russian manager from the Moscow office and he quickly put me in my place.

Throughout the whole interview, he was courteous, but made me understand that I am nothing. His tone of voice very clearly indicated the following line of thinking: "Who do you think you are, little girl and what are you even doing here?" Now, this consulting firm is famous for creating stressful situations for interviewees and seeing how they perform under pressure. However, this was beyond that. This was his Russian side exercising his manhood over me. In the end, I did not get an offer, but it made me think long and hard about whether I actually want to subject myself to this kind of work environment.

And this kind of work environment is why my parents think I am completely unprepared to work in Russia (whatever). I was educated in France and the United States and do not know how to deal with people being disrespectful to me for no reason, just because they hold a position of power over me (or think they do). Or maybe this will make me grow a thick skin that will be helfpul later in my career. I honestly do not know, but what I know is that even Donald Trump believes that rudeness at work has negative effects on the company.

Rudeness decreases spirit, enthusiasm and therefore productivity. So, Russians and everyone else, please stop being rude to your colleagues so that we can all just get some work done.