This post looks at the importance of manners in a business setting, and some of the rudeness that exists in today's business world and among today's businesspeople.
She should have been a football tackle. The woman who almost knocked me down as I was trying to get off the elevator on the first floor. She, like so many other people who don't get it, barged into the elevator before the people already on the elevator were off.
Now, this isn't just a manners issue. It is a simple logic issue. It makes logical sense to let people get OUT of the elevator before you try to get IN the elevator. But so many people are so narcissistic they only see their need to get ON the elevator as quickly as possible to accomplish their oh-so-important mission. The other day I saw someone deliberately rush for an elevator so she wouldn't have to wait for the man in the wheelchair wheeling himself over to get on. This goes beyond rude to unconscionable.
But elevators are not the only place where poor manners are displayed. Here are a few of the issues of manners in today's business world, and some suggestions for the way things should be.
Uh-huh or sure are NOT appropriate responses to Thank you.
This is one that irritates me a great deal. Someone cares enough, and is polite enough to say Thank you, and all you can do is GRUNT at them? Grow up. You're welcome, Anytime, or My pleasure are perfectly acceptable responses. A grunt simply identifies you as having been raised in a barn.
Cell phones are not for restaurants.
I understand that there are important calls that must be taken. Answer the call if you must, and indicate that you will call back in a few minutes, or an hour or whatever. Then go to a place where your loud phone voice (and, by the way, possibly confidential business) won't be overheard by everyone and ruin their lunch. Oh, and while this is not a business thing - if you have very young children and bring them to a nice restaurant (anything above, say, McDonalds) please take your offspring out of the restaurant if they start to scream, throw temper tantrums or pound on the table. Some of us are trying to have a nice lunch with a friend, conduct business, or get to know someone. The general rule for restaurants and other public places is: if it will disturb other people in that place, don't do it.
Approach conflict with courtesy.
I'm amazed at how many people simply go off the deep end when there is a business or personal disagreement. It simply shows poor upbringing to threaten to sue someone, scream at them, or be rude to them, even if you disagree. There are many sides to every issue, and a good businessperson doesn't automatically assume he or she is right or threaten the lawyers. This is a sign of gross immaturity. Unfortunately, too many people with this attitude are in business these days. But almost all conflict can be resolved courteously and with compromise.
Answer idiots softly.
If you do wind up with someone screaming at you or threatening lawsuits or mob contracts, don't let YOUR ego get in the way. Answer softly and with reason. My dad used to tell me never to argue with a fool because people walking by wouldn't be able to tell the difference. It remains excellent advice.
Be courteous to everyone.
I won't do business with someone who is rude to the waiter or waitress, or orders others around. Even if the service is terrible, take it up with the manager. This doesn't mean you should let people be rude to you either, however. But there are ways of setting boundaries that are polite and acceptable. Set the boundaries, but remain courteous. Waitperson and CEO are simply roles we play in life. All of us, however, are human and everyone deserves to be treated as such.
Show respect to others.
Learn the proper ways of being respectful to others, such as rising when a woman comes to or leaves the table, standing for a superior or business colleague, and so on, and do them unless you have a physical disability that prevents it.
Be kind to others.
I notice an increasing impatience for those who are elderly, dealing with a temporary or permanent disability, or just a little slower than others. Remember that you, too, will be someday be elderly, might be disabled, and might not always live life in the fast lane. Don't push by the elderly or disabled in your hurry to live your life. If you must hurry, politely excuse yourself as you pass...slowly and with caution. I had some foot surgery last year and when I was recovering didn't move very fast. I had more than one rude person almost bowl me over in their rush to get past me and get on with their oh-so-important errand. Unless you've an emergency worker answering a call there is very little that won't wait another few seconds for you to be courteous and kind. Not doing so simply marks you as a boor who shouldn't be allowed in polite company.
Texting when you're in a seminar, a class, at a meal, or in an appointment is normally inexcusable unless it has to do with the meeting itself. For example, when I meet with a client I will look up names of people or other information which might be helpful to that client on my laptop. But I'm not texting with my friends, I'm working for the client.
The basic rule of thumb here is something that has been lost in America. That rule is to consider the feelings and needs of others as being equal with one's own. Stop and think of others first rather than making yourself the center of the Universe. You aren't.
Mind your manners and treat others with respect and courtesy.
John Heckers is President of Heckers Development Group, LTD, an executive coaching and consulting firm based in Denver, Colorado.