12/29/2010 07:49 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

My Wish for the New Year: Kindness

Getting money is not all a man's business: to cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life. --Samuel Johnson

I know that many of us are ready to say goodbye to 2010. I would put myself in that category as well. 2010 was a difficult year in my business. As a landscaper and maintenance gardener, work was not as readily available as it has been in years past. But more than the work not being as plentiful, it was a very tough year working with clients and potential clients. I find I am not alone in these observations, it seems that many that work in a service business have found dealing with people much more of a challenge than they have experienced before.

This prolonged recession it seems has brought out the worst in many people. All of us have been affected by this bad economy in one way or another. There are few businesses that can take their customers for granted. But at the same time should the customers take the businesses for granted? That is what it felt like in 2010. In my business and in many others we have been expected to cut prices well below what is reasonable, and excuse what could only be called very bad behavior by our customers. Rudeness seems to be more prevalent than ever and in these clients eyes they feel justified. After all they are giving us work so how they treat us doesn't matter. I have walked away from jobs when I have encountered this attitude. Because of my unwillingness to take on the project I was threatened with bad reviews on various websites.

Is this just part of what a service person has to put up with in these economic times in order to get work? I hope not. I have let several clients go this year when I could have used the work because I could not do the project within their budget and make any money. I let clients go because their rudeness in dealing with me became something I was just not willing to take any longer. There were clients that I wished I had not taken on as they were slow in paying, were unreasonable in their expectations, and were rude to deal with. Unfortunately I would have to say that clients feeling justified in treated us in the service industry badly was more the norm than the exception this year. On Michael Chiarello's Facebook page, some called him on spelling a word incorrectly. A rash of responses to this person were posted. Most of them dealing with how rude folks can be and how rude this person was. A waiter for 30 years posted that he had never had to deal with so many rude customers this past year.

My fear if this continues is that the good people will get out of the work. No one that is a professional will want to be treated this way. So the folks that are marginal, don't have the training or the licensing will be the majority of people left in the landscaping field and possibly many others. The educated people who might have other options will opt to seek other work if at all possible.

So my wish for 2011 is that the economy improves for all of us. My wish is also that we show more compassion and kindness to those that serve us. They are struggling in many cases to make ends meet. Kindness and respect for the professionals that serve you is the right thing to do and in the end is going to make you feel a lot better too.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. ~Dalai Lama