By Cheryl Gittens | Thu, May 10, 2012 - 12:00 AM
From the time we are just a couple weeks old we are being shaped to conform to the social world of which we will inevitably become a part. One key, though subjective area which receives a lot of attention is the shaping of our manners.
In today’s workplaces, many co-workers complain of instances where their peers fail to demonstrate manners or ‘good’ manners. Young graduates entering the workplace are often highlighted as the chief offenders. It is sad because it begs the question, “Are we reneging on our obligation to teach our young people the good manners we were taught?”
I am reminded of a recent conversation concerning choosing one interview candidate over another based on the distinguishing attribute of good manners. Manners do get you through the door. They also help you to retain the interest of others, particularly your seniors at work. Today, with all the digital gadgetry, manners have become more complicated. In recent past, observing good behavior fitted squarely into themes such as extending salutations on entering and leaving a room; how to sit and conduct oneself at the dining table, in church and any public area.
They referred to tone of voice and volume when speaking with authority figures and personal hygiene, to name a few.
In the workplace these basics sufficed and worked well for decades. However some erosion is evident and coupled with a digital lifestyle, minding our manners have become even more pressing. Unsolicited greetings like ‘Good morning’ are seldom initiated and often ignored at work. Workers enter each others’ spaces while texting or taking calls.
Is this a case of familiarity breeding contempt? Perhaps part of the problem is that many people are not even aware when they are not practising manners. As a result I want to focus on some guidelines for good manners over and above good morning and thank you.
• Be punctual and call 15 to 30 minutes ahead if you are running late for work and meetings.
• Always respect your seniors
• Greet people with a pleasant facial expression and light tone
• Be respectful of others’ personal space
• Gracefully receive feedback; avoid complaining for others and making excuses.
• Always apologise when you are wrong.
• If a colleague is on the phone don’t stand around waiting for them to finish.
• Be appreciative of auxillary staff
• Mind your posture especially during interviews and meetings
• Avoid chewing gum
• Sneeze and cough on the back of your hands; use a handkerchief or tissue always
• Be polite to your colleagues even when you disagree
• Don’t be a know it all
• Set your phone to low, vibrate or silent when in the office.
• Answer your phone during a meeting if the call contributes to the meeting. Whispering is rude. It signals your awareness that you are being ill-mannered.
• Quit messaging in meetings. Constant glancing at your phone and “discretely” replying to texts is not discrete at all. If you are expecting an urgent message, let the Chair know ahead of the meeting and excuse yourself to reply to the message. Limit the frequency of these interruptions to once. Remember if others are also taking calls, pretty soon this activity will become disruptive.
• Set yourself a personal standard timeframe to reply to emails and stick to it.
• Emoticons are cute but unprofessional. Reserve them for professional relationships with good rapport, and for your friends.
• Do not use texting language in emails.
• Address individuals using their handles unless invited to refer to them otherwise.
• Avoid email wars. Schedule meetings to deal with disagreements.
• Be respectful of the receiver and proof your emails. You will make mistakes but do make the effort.
The goal is to remember to conduct yourself in such a way that you will be respected by others. Having good manners impresses but your focus is not to impress. Your focus is to earn respect and use it to influence those around you. Observing this list of habits (by no means exhaustive) will result in persuading others to cooperate with you while they enjoy having you around.
• Cheryl Gittens is a life performance coach to professionals, and a lecturer at the University of the West Indies.
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