Paul Butler | Work Hard and Be Nice

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile
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I love going to my gym. Well, “love” is perhaps too strong of a word. Let me correct that: I really like going to my gym and love what it does for me. I always feel refreshed and revitalized after a good cycling class or swim. Yes, that’s a good summary — I like my gym and love what I get from going. 

Translating this to the workplace: I’ve found that most people like going to work and love the fruit that falls from the tree of their labor. There is something intrinsically satisfying about receiving payment for a job well done, regardless of whether you’re an employee or an employer. We each sleep well knowing we made a contribution to the economy.  

There’s only one aspect of my gym that stops me short of loving it, and that’s the men in the locker room who refuse to wear shorts. Without putting too fine a point on it, I find it rather distasteful when trying to enjoy the sauna or steam room to have someone sitting next to me in their birthday suit. There’s only one thing worse than sitting together in the steam in silence, and that’s when the birthday boy starts complaining about this wonderful world, or begins to criticize the place we both just worked out within.  

Bringing this back to the workplace — I believe one of the reasons some people only like and not really love what they do is because of some colleagues making them feel uncomfortable.  

We rarely get to choose the people we work with, and so we often have to learn to work with those we perhaps wouldn’t necessarily socialize with. I remember a boss I had years ago in a land far-far away who wanted his team to have a “Happy (3) Hours” after work on a weekly basis. As a newly married man with a young family, the last thing on my mind was to waste three hours after a day’s work, talking mindlessly with my coworkers about subjects I neither cared about nor felt comfortable to actually hear about, when I could be home. 

That’s exactly what goes through my mind when I’m sitting next to the dude (and in my gym — often a very old dude) who wants to chat mindlessly about nothingness — all while wearing only the suit his Creator gifted him.  

One of the aspects of human interaction that creates woe in the workplaces of the world is when people cast off a decorum of decency and gossip about others. To hear a co-worker talk bad about the boss or criticize a colleague or laugh about the lunacy of a customer’s question keeps many from loving what they do every day. 

People go to work to make money to do what they want to do with who they want to be doing it with. In the process of all this doing, most reasonable people want to be treated in a way they themselves treat others. This golden rule invisibly bonds us together and therefore deep down in our engines we know it’s not right to gossip. Likewise, we don’t need to bare all of ourselves to those with whom all we have in common is: We’re on the same payroll or membership roster. 

There’s an increasing trend in the workplace that’s called “Psychological Safety,” which boils down to, “You do you.” The trouble is, when others have to work, or work out next you, they’d actually rather you not be you, if all you’re going to do is complain and criticize by metaphorically sharing your junk.  

One of the best pieces of advice a leader gave me early in my career was to “Work hard and be nice.” Libraries are filled with books that expound upon those five words — “Work hard and be nice.” Whether it’s between office cubes; across the workbenches or even on a group video call — “Work hard and be nice.” Refrain from gossip. There’s no need to wear your heart on your sleeve and in fact, do us all a favor and cover up if your issues that make others uncomfortable. If it’s serious, speak to a specialist. In the meantime — work hard and be nice.  

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

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