Is a Lack of Etiquette Damaging Your Company’s Image?

is a lack of etiquette damaging your company's imageAre common courtesies and good manners a thing of the past? It’s quite possible, according to a recent survey that explored the topic of employee etiquette and the frustration of leaders who are struggling to manage this common workplace issue. Conducted by Kessler International, the anonymous poll asked leaders to comment about workplace etiquette and ethics. Among the key findings, many indicated a lack of common courtesy among staff members and in professional communications, such as letters and emails. As well, everyone cited untimely and inappropriate cell phone use in the workplace. Many of the respondents also reported they were embarrassed to invite certain staff members, particularly younger team members, to professional functions or work events due to the inability of these hires to interact appropriately with clients. While many place the blame on today’s education system and a general lack of understanding of what’s right versus wrong, these leaders recognize they’ve got to address the issues to avoid putting their businesses at risk. Facing similar challenges? Focus on controlling what you can, establishing and communicating guidelines for employees while modeling the way you expect them to behave. Don’t settle for sloppy behaviors­—it could cost you your business in terms of its professionalism, image, and bottom line.

Here are some areas of business that can be enhanced with professional workplace etiquette:

Formal Communications. Regardless of whether your hires are writing emails, sending letters, or talking face-to-face with clients, vendors, or others outside your organization, they are representing your business and its brand. So when it comes to etiquette, you’ve got to establish rules that align with that image and sustain its professional tone and voice. For example, if you’re noticing a disregard for good manners in letters, emails, people’s voicemail messages and phone calls, bring your people together, engage them in some discussion, helping them understand why a more professional, polished approach matters. Give them tangible examples they can follow and even formal trainings if necessary. This could be as simple as providing your team members with a sample letter, detailing the company’s policy for how to greet and close with good etiquette and style. But it could mean sending them to a communications workshop, covering topics like “Common Grammar Blunders,” “Client Relations: 10 Things You Never Want to Say!” or “What Your Nonverbal Communications Say About You.” And do those nonverbal communications really matter? Absolutely! In fact, research shows they can be more powerful than what you say, so set expectations here, too, providing rules, tips, and feedback around how to both dress for success and use body language to your advantage.

Informal Communications. While things in your company might be a bit more relaxed behind the scenes and among co-workers, rules for courtesy, ethics, and etiquette enable you to maintain boundaries and work in a healthier, happier, and more productive way. For instance, you may want to establish guidelines around being late for meetings, barging into people’s offices uninvited, interrupting conversations, and even cleaning up themselves, such as in the kitchen or break room. While these may seem like behaviors you shouldn’t have to regulate, these are common offenders that can often be managed with some upfront conversations as well as written expectations that employees have to read and then sign, confirming they understand and will hold themselves accountable. There are also a number of small, common courtesies worth demanding around the office. Please, thank you, good morning, etc.—all go a long way toward creating a culture that communicates and collaborates effectively. And remember, don’t just expect all this of others, barking orders, barging into people’s meetings, or believing someone will clean up your messes behind you. Make it a habit to do these things yourself. Modeling the behaviors you want to see will help establish and sustain those expectations you have of others.

Electronics Etiquette. The growing abuse of cell phones, texting, doing social media, etc., while employees are on the job has become a real sore spot for many business leaders, according to the study cited above. While the managers and executives all recognized the practical need for such devices at times, such as when used as listening or recording devices in meetings, every single respondent indicated untimely and inappropriate use of cellphones by staff. It’s a real issue, which is why in MAP’s 2.5-day executive workshop, when establishing ground rules upfront, one of those rules is that devices go off when we’re meeting. We have comfort breaks, when people can check their phones, but when we’re in our session, the phones go off because it’s impossible for people to fully focus and participate when they’re looking at their phones, texting, reading social media, etc. If you’re facing this same grievance, create some rules so your people know what’s expected of them, making sure that the guidelines you set strike a balance between maintaining your organization’s ability to perform and being fair to those who work there.

What’s the biggest issue you deal with in terms of workplace etiquette and manners?

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