Work might be a bit more pleasant for everyone if more people practiced good manners at the office.
Ranging from saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ to just being polite, businesses could use more common courtesy from the people who work there.
Only about a third of senior executives and managers say that people in their department or organization always practice good manners, based on a global survey we conducted.
And this is not necessarily good news for those not using their manners, since the majority of business leaders say that good manners are extremely important in advancing a person’s career.
“Manners and courtesy are the first to suffer during times of pressure and stress,” said one survey respondent. “People answer their cell phones during meetings, type on their Blackberries, walk in on closed door discussions and generally behave rudely. There is a belief that pressure and stress are valid excuses for those behaviors, and when demonstrated by persons in positions of rank or authority, there is reluctance to correct or challenge them.”
Some of the issue of manners comes not necessarily from the workplace but from how the specific individuals were brought up.
“Most of our people are above age 35 so they were taught some manners by their parents and schools,” said one manager. So if managers were not taught good manners while growing up, it is unlikely that they will learn inside the pressured environment of today’s workplace.
And the lack of good manners can manifest itself in many ways, some small and subtle, while some are significant and obvious.
“Most of us work remotely, and I'm aghast when folks eat crunchy chips during a conference call,” said one manager. “They apologize for doing it, but keep right on chomping. Interrupting others is also a common manners problem, though if the speaker is on a speakerphone, they can't hear the interruption, and the opposite problem takes place: no one can even jump in to ask a question.”
Said another: “It surprises me that rude language and being short seems to be becoming more common in the workplace. Courtesies such as ‘please,’ ‘thank-you’ and being polite go a long way. Just because you are busy is no excuse.”
One of the casualties of the do-more-with-less era of today is that there is less time to do as much as needs to be done.
“We often laugh that we must say ‘thank you’ at least 100 times a day and how obvious it is when someone doesn't bother to say ‘thank you,’” said one manager.
“Saying 'please' and 'thank you,' knowing how to shake someone's hand properly and how to use the right fork at a dinner have become even more important in the last few years,” said another. “It's not being taught in the schools, so someone who has those skills is a standout.”
“Email is the worst example of bad etiquette consistently practiced by everyone,” said one respondent. “Email is like shouting across an auditorium. Some courtesies do not translate across media well. An example is the common ‘thank you,’ which loses meaning and becomes an annoyance when it is sent in email, particularly to a broadcast list.”
How manners are practiced inside an organization may also indicate how they’re practiced externally.
“Manners are an indication of character,” said one executive. “How employees treat each other is a good indication of how they will treat a customer in a stressful situation.”
The bottom line is that good manners are a reflection of respect for others and without mutual respect it’s difficult to work efficiently together.
“Good manners equal respect in the treatment of fellow human beings, even towards those who do not always exhibit them,” said one survey respondent. “In business, it is an important part of the professional image a company wants to put forth to its clients and in its industry and personally, it shows you have class, no matter what your position or status is in life.”
While moving ahead in an organization is typically based on performance and results, it is hard to overlook how an individual interacts with others as they perform, which comes right back to practicing good manners.
“It is imperative that one be able to get along with one's co-workers, and good manners are the main ingredient,” said one executive.
So in addition to competence and performance, good manners should be added to the ingredients for personal success.