I wear a T-shirt when I travel that says “Be Good to People,” thanks to Kris Wittenberg’sgenerosity of spirit, and #JustBeNice (Twitter handle @Just_B_Nice) is something I talk about a lot, and do my best to live by.” It’s not only a personal mantra of mine, but a business one as well, because when we make it a point to act this way with everyone we meet on the job, it affects not only our reputation as individuals, but also the reputation of the brand we represent.

Let’s use the airline industry as an example. It’s a crowded flight, everyone’s in a hurry, and you’ve got a line of people behind you waiting to get their bags put away and take their seats. You’re trying to put your carry-on in the overhead bin, but it doesn’t quite fit. If a flight attendant looks sternly at you or speaks to you in a rushed, nasty voice, you automatically get defensive—which aggravates already elevated stress levels of everyone within earshot. However, if he or she smiles, offers assistance and has a friendly demeanor throughout, it not only relieves your stress, it also has a positive result on those around you.

Sometimes it’s not that easy to be nice—especially when a customer is being rude or downright nasty. However, especially when serving the public, we have to quash our natural, human tendency to get our backs up. Swallowing hard, putting on your brightest smile, and offering to help in a friendly, relaxed way will always garner positive results (even if it doesn’t feel good at the time). Doesn’t every business teach this to their employees? You would hope so, but how often have you seen the opposite?

For instance, a friend of mine once dreaded going to her family doctor—not because the doctor was unfriendly, but because the receptionist was rude, short and intimidating with just about every patient who came in or called. This made for a very unpleasant atmosphere in the waiting room. Whether the doctor realized it or not, the receptionist’s demeanor had a direct effect on the reputation of the practice. How many patients do you think she turned away from the practice because they either experienced her unpleasantness or witnessed it? Unless a patient complained to the doctor, he or she might never know this was happening and would most likely have already lost business!

I think lessons in #JustBeNice should be a prerequisite for any kind of employment, whether it’s as a flight attendant or working in a restaurant, as a government employee or even in the healthcare industry. But do we really have to teach people to be nice at work? Well, I think everyone could use a refresher. However, it goes beyond just instructing your employees to be pleasant to people and then never mentioning it again. We need to teach it as part of our business culture, and be explicit—even doing some role playing can help get the point across. Also, remind your people on a regular basis that this is who you are as a company and encourage the behavior. Give a shout-out in your newsletter or offer a #JustBeNice award to employees who go the extra mile. A little positive incentive goes a long way.

Remember, you never know who your employees are going to interact with during their day, whether it’s on the phone, in person or online. Other customers, employees and vendors are watching their interactions and making judgements about your company based on what they see. This translates to online conversations and interactions as well, especially in a public forum, where people don’t often comment, but make decisions just by watching the conversation. If your public-facing folks are always pleasant and helpful, they cannot be accused of being gruff or nasty, and all those watching have a positive view of that employee and the brand.

So let’s bring politeness and just being nice into our workforce in a very focused and encouraging way. Educate your employees on it importance to them as well as your brand, and give them explicit examples of what it means to #JustBeNice in relationships with customers, prospects and other employees.

Let them know that… a “Brand” is what a business/person does; a “Reputation” is what people remember and share.

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