Manners Still Matter in the Workplace

9 Jan

Manners During the holiday cocktail party where I was mingling with other colleagues, the subject of what is going on regarding manners in the workplace, or more accurately…the lack thereof, came up. There seemed to be a majority of consensus among these colleagues of a noticeable decline of standards related to simple social etiquette that not too long ago was expected of people. Among the examples bantered around were how their peers didn’t return phone calls and emails and how just these two things alone contributed to disruptions in the ability to get work completed on time. Rather than spending valuable time chasing these recalcitrant types down, many of my colleagues opted to do the work themselves or go it alone when it came to making decisions. Not willing to settle for calling such behavior as just “bad manners” most agreed it was better characterized as shear rudeness that exemplified a sort of selfish disrespect or, at the least, uncaring attitude on the part of such non-responsive culprits. It was also agreed that just as similarly guilty are an increasing number of coworkers who all too often arrive late to meetings and cause others to accommodate them by reviewing what was said in their absence. Those were mentioned as the bigger disruptive and rude offenses that seemed to be increasing in frequency.

A few of my colleagues who are consultants piped in with other experiences they felt were kind of new in regards to what they observed in the past. In visiting other companies or other departments in their own organization, they have begun to notice an absence of what-use-to-be a sense of welcome. Oftentimes, upon meeting others they have to ask the names of the people they don’t know rather than have a familiar intermediary introduce them. In an unfamiliar setting, they have to awkwardly ask where to hang their coat, get a drink of water, or sometimes where they should sit in a meeting. Politeness is something many of these colleagues never considered to be an elective option. It had always been an expectation! Everyone chimed in with agreement of how there seemed to be an increasing shortage of “thank you’s,” “pardon me’s”, and “may I’s (as in “May I get you a coffee? Tea? Hang your coat? Offer you a Kleenex?” etc., etc.) This quickly led to the topic of giving employees holiday or birthday gifts. Many of them confessed having never received any “thank you” notes from their respective employees or any feedback as to whether or not they enjoyed, liked, or successfully used the gift. I could go on – from failing to open doors, to the rudeness associated with indulging with one’s smart phone during meetings, to not picking up after oneself at the conclusion of meetings– but I’ll stop here.

What’s important to note as this new near gets underway is how nice it would be if everyone we come in contact with at work made a resolution to simply return phone calls and emails by the end of the day – or at least within 24 hours. Making that one small change doesn’t require the adoption of a new corporate policy, nor will it cost the company any money. It’s just making a commitment to our fellow workers to be helpful and respectful and show a tad sense of “manner awareness”. More than any gift can do, it’s showing kindness and caring that keeps on giving throughout the year!

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

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