Friday, August 27, 2010

Manners for the Workplace

A short while ago a friend was lamenting that she had to chase down responses from people who hadn’t responded to an invitation. “Doesn’t anyone know what RSVP means anymore?” she asked.

It reminded me of a similar situation I experienced a couple of years ago when I sent snail mail invites to a surprise party. Only 20% of the invitees responded promptly, so I created a facebook event – and I got more responses. But within the last twenty-four hours before the event yes’s turned to maybe’s, maybe’s turned to no’s, no’s turned to yes’s and I had no idea how many people would attend.

In the words of my friend, “What ever happened to common courtesy?”

In the workplace, we tend to do a great job of being courteous to clients, but those we work closest with sometimes get treated badly. Consider these examples:

Washington, DC, December 3, 2008 -- FEMA Admin...1. The colleague who doesn’t respond to a meeting invitation. What’s worse is when this co-worker assumes the meeting will be re-scheduled when they don’t show up. And even worse yet, when they join the meeting after decisions have been made and want the team to start over. Is this you? Then by all means respond to those invites in your in-box, and if you can’t make a meeting and really need to attend, then request a reschedule in advance.

2. The manager who doesn’t get back to a potential employee that he or she has interviewed for a job. I’m not suggesting that a personal response is required for the dozens of resumes and applications you received. But when the candidate has been through multiple rounds of interviews, and you were down to the short set of candidates, and you told them you’d make a decision within a week – then yeah, that one deserves a personal response.

3. The boss who doesn’t thank her employees at the conclusion of a project. Your employees have put in lots of extra hours. They put up with early meetings, and late meetings, and changed the materials – sometimes three or four times in one day. When the project is complete you owe it to them to let them know how it went, and yes – to say thank-you.

4. The manager who doesn’t get back to the employee who asked to speak to him today. It doesn’t matter whether the employee is waiting outside your door, or at the other end of a phone line. If you said you’d get back to them, then please do. Their time is valuable too.

5. The boss who asks their employees to disrupt their personal lives but gives nothing in return. Sometimes the early meeting or the weekend work session can’t be avoided. But recognize that you are asking your employees to disrupt their personal lives. If you must do it, then try to arrange a schedule that accommodates all employees, and the next time they ask to leave early to attend a school event, then by all means – give back.

Sometimes that simple “thank you” is all an assistant, or co-worker, or employee, or boss (yes, bosses too) needs to feel appreciated. What suggestions do you have to improve courtesy in the workplace?

Who are you going to thank today?
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Anon_e_mouse said...

Common courtesy isn't very common any more... and while I used to point the finger at those significantly younger than myself as the prime culprits, I think nowadays that there are very few folks of any age who practice it. I notified about 150 individuals recently, initially via email and later via snail-mail, of an upcoming dinner meeting (two weeks from tonight) and reminded them that reservations are required... so far I have had exactly ONE response, and that was from a member of the organization who was declining because (as I already knew) he is currently serving in Afghanistan. Sunday I'll send out another email reminder and over the holiday weekend I'll have to start calling, since the final count is due to the caterer on the 7th. I know there will most likely be about 25-30 people there, but still... too many people seem to figure they can just show up, and I've been to similar events where (a) the food ran out or (b) there was way too much food and the organization got stuck with a much bigger bill than would have been necessary had people responded.

As to another part of your post... as a job seeker, I think that every résumé deserves a response, even if it is nothing more than an automated acknowledgement telling you that it has been received and you will be contacted (within 30 days, or some such number) if there is any further interest on their part. I'm quite frustrated right now with one recruiter who both emailed and called me regarding a position, assured me he was submitting me to his client (for whom I was the "perfect match"), and now, after three weeks... nothing... he hasn't responded to emails or the voice message I left on Tuesday asking for status. And, if he's anything like 95% of the recruiters I've talked to in the past year, I won't hear anything further... at least not until he has the next urgent requirement for which I am again the "perfect match". Fortunately, there are still some recruiters out there who do respond without being prompted, even if it's just to say "still waiting on client feedback". Seems they have as much difficulty hearing back from their clients as we do from them.

Colette said...

Anonemouse -- thanks for sharing your great examples. Are we all just too distracted to be responsive?

Anon_e_mouse said...

Distracted? Perhaps. But I think that's a separate issue. No, I think it's simply that being courteous isn't important any more in our society... or at least not important enough for most people to bother with it. We have become too self-centered to worry - or even care - about the impression we make on other people. We no longer teach our children "yes sir" and "yes ma'am" (our younger daughter - a lawyer - says that the only time she hears those words any more is in a courtroom, and then only when a judge has said something that has left a defendant - or an attorney - cowering in fear).

And until we (collectively) learn that we (individually) are not the center of the universe, I don't see much likelihood of change.

SteveB said...

By and large, I found female peers and management to be noticeably more courteous in their relationships than the guys. Not always, but the those that stand out in my mind were all woman. I will not attempt to explain what Venusian wiring makes this so

Colette said...

SteveB - interesting perspective. I will add though, that I have worked with many women who were less courteous than men.

One Womans Eye said...

Great post! This happens to be one of my pet peeves, in and out of the office!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Common courtesy and commen sense...neither is very common today.

Came by from KarenG's BBQ post. Nice blog here!

Colette said...

Angie, welcome! and well said!

JW said...

Hi there. First time visiting via the BBQ. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. It's good to know others are new to entering the world of writing (does that even make sense, I don't know). My husband would appreciate your blog as he has been in corporate america forever. I have just danced with it a couple times and decided, 'eh.. not for me.' I love your perspective and look forward to your blogs. Enjoy!! Janelle

Colette said...

Janelle, thanks for coming! Aren't blog parties great? Consider yourself lucky that you didn't have to do a tour in Corporate America!

Splaktar said...

I try to take some time as often as possible (once a week, month, etc) to find some positive things to say to people or reasons to thank them.

I generally say Thank you out of common courtesy, but a lot of times that is missed when things are hectic. It is nice to try and find things that really made a difference for you lately and make sure those who helped you know that you appreciated it.

After being with a large corporation for so many years and being a fairly senior member, it was really hard to find reasons to say Thank You. It seemed that I was mostly helping everyone else but no one was helping me. This was especially true when I was working remotely.

Now that I'm in a smaller corporation, I'm a newer member to the team, and I'm in the office every day, it is really easy to find things to say Thank You about!