The Etiquette Edge

Modern Manners for Business Success

The Etiquette Edge

Author: Beverly Langford
Pub Date: August 2016
Print Edition: $16.00
Print ISBN: 9780814437629
Page Count: 256
Format: Paper or Softback
Edition: Second Edition
e-Book ISBN: 9780814437636

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Introduction – The Case for Courtesy

Today’s workplace is a more complex environment than it was just a couple of decades ago. Flatter organizations, decreased power distance, and increased diversity have benefited companies immensely, but with those changes have come more confusion about accepted rules of conduct and interpersonal relationships. Add to that turmoil the inescapable reach of social media and new technology that allows near-constant opportunities for creating friction with others, creating a world where we are connecting but not really connected.

Customs vary, and language and social differences can make effective interaction in the workplace, already challenging, even more daunting. The old rules don’t seem to work anymore; we need new practical guidelines to avoid confusion, or even chaotic behavior.

Unfortunately, since the late 1900’s, perhaps beginning in the 1960s, many people have considered courtesy old fashioned and good manners elitist. At the same time, many of us are increasingly frustrated with rudeness or social ineptness and lack of professionalism among employees, customers, coworkers, and strangers. Yet most of us will readily admit that our parents’ concepts of good manners don’t always work in the 21st century.

The Value of Courtesy to Your Career

Many factors contribute to a person’s professional success. Knowledge, skill, work ethic, integrity, ambition—all of these factors are essential to achieving our goals. However, we make a serious mistake if we ignore the importance of effective and appropriate communication and behavior, social savvy and common-sense etiquette. Failing to recognize how one can seize a competitive advantage by leveraging good manners and courtesy in the workplace can undermine our good efforts on the job.

When asked the secret of his success, the vice president of a major technology company once answered, “It’s quite simple, really. I learned to anticipate all the possibilities so that I could take action instead of merely responding. And, I remembered the things my mother taught me.” The point he wanted to make was that these early lessons had taught him the importance of treating others well, whether we call it etiquette, good manners, courtesy, civility, or social savvy.

Without question, if you aspire to a management or leadership position, treating others with courtesy and respect is critical to building trust and credibility. And being a credible, trustworthy leader is a key factor in inspiring others to follow you. However, courtesy should not be viewed as a management tool implemented simply to manipulate others. True courtesy has as its source a genuine ability to value other people and to see their worth, regardless of their status.

Treating people courteously, either out of guilt or because we feel that a particular person is important or can help our career, are inauthentic reasons for courteous behavior, and other people will soon recognize the insincerity. On the other hand, you can learn to be genuinely courteous, and usually its effect on others and their subsequent behavior is the best reinforcement for adopting a habit of courtesy. In most cases, when we extend genuine courtesy to others, they respond positively to us. And having people respond positively to us positively is a great confidence booster. In turn, as we become more secure about ourselves, we will become increasingly comfortable treating others well and courtesy will become an integral element of our character

Who Can Use This Book?

This book will provide some common-sense guidelines for handling some common workplace situations in which knowing the right behavior can make the difference in how others see us and respond to us.

Whether you are an established manager, in a new job, or entering or re-entering the work force, a quick review of how to behave in a variety of workplace situations will help you establish yourself as a socially mature, valuable colleague whom people trust, admire, and want to be around.

Interpersonal communication is always unpredictable because we are each as unique as our fingerprints. Therefore, you need to judge the ideas presented here against the requirements of your own personality and those of your audience. Choose what works for you, and put your own spin on those that work for you in order to increase the chances of making your relationships with others solid and mutually beneficial. As you read the chapters, consider how you can apply some of these principles to your current or future work situations.

How to Get the Most from This Book

Think about interpersonal skills you want to develop. Are you uncomfortable in social situations with strangers? Do you struggle with building an effective network on whom you can call when you need specific resources? Do you want to make a better first impression? Do you want to increase your authority and influence among coworkers? Do working lunches give you heartburn? Are you unsure about how to interpret nonverbal signals?

Pick out the topics or chapters that seem to fit your particular needs, and focus on those sections. You’ll notice that each chapter ends with a bulleted summary entitled “The Bottom Line,” which highlights the major messages of that section.

At the end of each chapter, you also will have the opportunity to create your own action plan for behaviors you would like to adopt, as well as those you would like to change. For example, after reading a particular chapter, you may decide that you want to stop interrupting others or that you would like to develop the habit of saying thank you more often. Once you create an action plan, you may choose to share your goals with another person, who can become your goal champion and reinforce your progress in an area that you have defined.

Although our complex world doesn’t provide simple answers, we can always find ways to make interacting with our fellow human beings more rewarding and interesting. We’re all on this often exciting, frustrating, perplexing, exhilarating—and rarely ever boring--journey.

If we work together, we can all enjoy the trip.

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