Politeness is preferable, rudeness is repulsive

It's not just your skills base, knowledge and experience that are important in the workplace. Suzanne Wheatley speaks up (politely) for good manners and courtesy.

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Saying thank you

The Japanese government has launched a campaign of events worldwide to say thank you for the support received after last year's devastating earthquake.

Although this was just a tiny sidebar story in the Evening Standard this week, the story about the Arigato campaign caught my eye and made me smile. The help and assistance was not offered with a caveat that we must all be given free Japanese food and drink in a year's time, yet the people of Japan felt moved to say thank you and to give a little something back.

It got me thinking about manners, good bad and just plain questionable.  My parents raised us to believe that good manners are absolutely essential and I like to think that I continue to demonstrate this. Even in moments of high pressure, anxiety, joy or sadness, I try my utmost to be courteous. Whilst I'm not hung up on whether or not someone likes me/my hair/my shoes [delete as appropriate], I would hate to think someone thought me rude.

Good manners at work

As a recruiter my job is about building relationships and rapport with jobseekers and clients alike, offering advice and guidance. Finding, and indeed keeping, a job means having the right mix of skills and knowledge but also displaying the right attitude and good manners. Are you running late for an interview? We all know that traffic jams happen and trains decide to stop for no reason at all but do remember to apologise on arrival. It reflects badly if no apology is offered. Commenting negatively on current or previous employers and employees can leave a sour aftertaste.

Speaking of taste, how good are your table manners?  Some organisations hold all day assessments which include sitting down to meals as a group. And what should you do after the interview?  One of my colleagues was working as a recruiter in New York, where candidates would routinely send prospective employers a post-interview thank you note.   The notes she received, even after some candidates had been told they had been unsuccessful, were well written and put a smile on her face. The fact that she remembers them doing this says something.

Once you have secured that job, do you change? Words like 'respect', 'courtesy' and 'listening' spring to mind when thinking of how to conduct oneself at work. It's the little things that make such a difference, isn't it? Saying hello or good morning/evening even if you don't work directly with people in the office, thanking people for their time, offering to make a cup of tea, crediting people's ideas, acknowledging that something didn't work, owning up to mistakes. To me, these come under the heading of good manners.  Listing examples of bad manners would send us all into frenzy so I shall simply say that I'm not a fan of mobile phones ringing loudly in the office and leave it at that.

Why manners matter

I posed the subject of manners in professional life on Twitter (a place where a lack of finesse is often demonstrated) and received the following responses which I feel do sum up the importance and visibility of good manners:

"In any role, modelling the behaviour you expect is imperative." - Luke Simonds @particlethistle

"Manners are like apostrophes - people who don't understand them don't care, those who do make their use effortless." - Sara Batts @Batty_Towers

Life can be fast-paced, it moves quickly and sometimes it can be easy to allow ourselves to be carried along with it. Can good manners help you to get off the rollercoaster safely and with dignity?   An anthropologist friend of mine, studying culture in Japan, told me that people just do not post hateful messages on the internet there. The standards of politeness, behaviour and manners to which the Japanese people adhere make it a pleasant community and this can be clearly seen in the Arigato campaign.

Manners cost nothing but mean everything. 


Suzanne Wheatley is a Recruitment Manager at Sue Hill Recruitment.  She has worked in information management recruitment for ten years.  You can follow her on Twitter @suzyredrec


Photograph (used with thanks!) courtesy of stevendepolo via Flickr.