This is just as much of a professional New Year Resolution as it is a thought piece. The past year has been a huge growth year for me both personally and professionally. With this growth, I have experienced a handful of “learning moments” that have made me stop and think about what I am doing and how I am presenting myself to the world. Much to my surprise, I have found is that there is a common thread in a lot of these moments: manners. Whether it was good manners exhibited by a colleague that I admire, or my own bad manners that caused disappointment to someone I respect, I have realized that my mother was right all these years: manners shape a situation and can speak louder than words. To be clear, I am not referring to your usual “Ps & Qs” (although that helps regardless of where you are), knowing which fork to use at a dinner party, or holding the door for someone with their hands full. Manners in the workplace are less obvious and require a little more thought. Since those of us who work in tech spend most of the workday looking at a screen, there is a whole new set of habits that shape our “professional manners”.
I am the first one to admit that manners aren’t really at the forefront of workplace conversations. Talking about manners can lead to conversations about work ethic, co-worker respect, and other seemingly deep topics that tend to make people uncomfortable. However, having good manners in the workplace not only makes you feel better about yourself as a professional, it helps boost your reputation to your clients (and coworkers) as a whole.
Here are three tips that you can start doing instantly to achieve workplace manners that your mom would be proud of.
#1 Be careful how you say “Yes!”
Selfishly, this is number one because it is my biggest professional resolution. All too often, I will want to please whoever is asking of the favor, no matter what my schedule says. However, if I were to be honest with myself, instances where I would normally say, “Yes! I will do this ASAP”, should actually be answered with “Yes, I can fit this in this week.” Taking a step back to be completely realistic with your bandwidth lowers your overall to-do list-anxiety and ultimately helps you correctly manage expectations.
#2 Make scheduling easy for the other person
As the Operations arm of Priceless Misc, I do a lot of scheduling. Calendars change constantly and when trying to schedule a meeting between you and another, being concise about your availability is a sure-fire way to get that date locked with little back-and-forth. There are many tools to help groups of people find the most convenient meeting times, however, scheduling one-on-one meetings don’t usually happen through a pretty platform that does all the work for you. One of my favorite ways to set a meeting with someone is to give them your availability right off the bat. Sending an email that says, “See below for a handful of dates and times that I am available” allows the reader to pick the slot that works best for them too. An email that only says, “Let me know what works best for you” (GUILTY!) opens the door for at least 3 more email exchanges before you finally land on a date. Showing the receiver that you are accommodating yet specific from the get-go sets the stage for maximum efficiency and mutual respect going forward.
#3 Always introduce your guests, no matter what
The previous two were things that I need to get better with. This tip however, was inspired by an instance where I was on the receiving end of bad workplace manners. In short, I was with a group of colleagues and we were visiting with another group of like-minded individuals (at their office) to talk about ideas, community outreach, and help each other solve business solutions. The hosting group began the morning like any other person would, with introductions. It just so happened that my group of colleagues consisted of one man, and two other women (besides myself). We were all sitting together and when the introductions began, the host turned to my male colleague first. He said his piece and when he was finished, without skipping a beat, the host turned to another new (also male) attendant and asked for his introduction. At first, I thought that maybe the host was mixing up the order of introductions so I politely waited my turn to tell this new group of friends who I was and what I was doing there. Much to my disappointment, the host never turned back to me, or my fellow female colleagues. Even though the conversations that followed throughout that morning were awesome and inspiring, I left with a bad taste in my mouth. No matter how cool I thought the host was, I was insulted and my view of the host (and their group) were jaded. Making the effort to introduce yourself, or someone you are with, is a small, but very appreciated gesture. Say you are out to lunch with a client and someone walks by your table that you know, but your client doesn’t, and that person stops to say hi and catch up for a moment. The 10 seconds it takes to introduce that person to your client is more important than you think. Even though your client may never see that person again, bringing them into the fold validates your client as a person and shows them that you respect their presence, no matter where you are.