Is it me? Am I just getting old? I hope not, or at least not yet. I have always been a believer that everything I need to know regarding how to treat people, I learned in elementary school. At a very early age I was taught to open the doors for young ladies, answer yes sir, no ma’am and be respectful of your elders. Etiquette used to be the glue that held society together. Sadly, these days it has gone by the wayside both in society and in the workplace. I will admit that I am old enough to know that one mistake does not make someone a failure, just as one survey does not apply unilaterally to all organizations. With that being said, I do have to say that a recent nationwide survey conducted by Kessler International is very discouraging. This particular survey revealed the declining state of workplace manners, etiquette and ethics. Respondents to the survey, upper and middle management, indicated by an 84% margin that their staff was inconsiderate and rude in the workplace. In addition, the same respondents cited by 65% that they felt a majority of their staff lacked a moral compass.
Disturbingly, some respondents expressed disgust of certain individuals on their staff as well as their own inability to say something and correct a situation. They cited their company’s “political correctness”, their own inability to have confrontation and constraints instituted by their Human Resources department as stumbling blocks.
This particular survey looked specifically at employee’s use of personal electronic devices, dress, manners, ethics, and employee’s levels of respect for other employees. Among the etiquette and ethics issues surveyed, here are the top sixteen mentioned by managers:
1. Untimely and inappropriate use of cell phones
2.Wearing inappropriate clothing to work
3. Complete lack of courtesy
4. Use of street talk and signs in professional meetings
5. The inability of younger staff to write a letter or email
6. Lack of personal responsibility
7. Failure to say please and thank you
8. Lying to a caller on the phone
9. Hanging up on phone calls when they feel confronted or uncomfortable
10. Cheating on time billed to clients and stealing time by arriving late or leaving early
11. Cutting corners on work rather than staying after hours to correct mistakes they
12. Visiting sex and dating websites on company time
13. “Sexting” on company issued phones
14. Inability to interact professionally with clients during a business function
15. General lack of manners
16. Lack of integrity
One of the biggest changes in 21st Century office life is the ubiquity of gadgets like cell phones, iPads and tablets. Unanimously, every person polled cited the inappropriate use of cell phones as the number one culprit contributing to poor manners. Receiving noisy texts throughout the day and looking at and using their phones during office and client meetings, are just a few examples of rudeness and theft of time.
The most disturbing issue cited is the lack of personal responsibility and accountability. According to the survey, most respondents felt the biggest factor attributing to these specific issues is the training and acceptance of these behaviors by high schools, colleges and higher learning institutions. It appears that the educational system may feel more pressure to achieve statistical results and therefore, moral accountability becomes less of a priority. Unfortunately, we are seeing a breakdown of human behavior which will affect generations of future leaders and employees.
Using good manners and being accountable is fundamental to a healthy workplace let alone a healthy life. When disrespectful conduct appears throughout the company it can quickly become part of the organization’s culture. Good manners are an absolute necessity. When your company has firm requirements of proper etiquette and personal responsibility, it will encourage employees to act appropriately as well as encourage them to accept nothing less from those around them. As the saying goes, “Good manners do not cost you anything to exercise, but the lack of them may cost you dearly further down the road”.
Visit the Kessler Notebook for a continuing series on workplace manners and ethics.
Some excerpts from Kessler International and HR.BLR.