Is Professional Courtesy a Thing of the Past?

We live in a hyper-connected world and the pace in the corporate environment is lightning fast. The desire to make every deadline, attend every meeting, join each conference call may result in our being over-stretched and less productive. Although we may have access to all types of communications devices, we aren’t always using them effectively.

I grew up with parents who taught me to respect everyone around me. It didn’t matter who they were, what they did or how well I knew them. What mattered was how I treated them – with the decency that they deserved.

I have carried that with me throughout my life. I do my best to say thank you any time a person helps me or even responds to request that I have made of them – whether in my personal life or work life. My colleague, Beth Elkin recently wrote a post about the importance of appreciation which also underscores the importance of saying those two words: thank you.

My intern recently shared her dad’s advice to her as she started her internship at JDA: “Show up.” It is so simple, yet based on his career experience, something he felt was worth emphasizing as his daughter gains on-the-job experience.

The corporate world has changed since I first started but what hasn’t changed is my approach to my fellow colleagues, whether they be internal or external. Ultimately, the adage of “treating people like you want to be treated” holds true. Here’s how I try to practice what I preach:

  • I answer my email. The person sending it to me put time into writing it, and the response and the information I provide in reply can be important to them. Even if I don’t immediately have the answer, it takes very little time to say, “Let me get back to you.” And then I make sure I do.
  • I show up on time to calls and meetings. Everyone’s time is valuable, regardless of their role in the company. I strive to be on time for a meeting or phone call. And if I cannot be, I make sure to communicate to the organizer that I will be late or that I can’t join
  • Whenever possible, I refrain from multi-tasking during calls. This is easier said than done and I am guilty of this – as many of us are. I recently heard a story on NPR which talked about the ill effects of multi-tasking on the brain (another future blog topic, perhaps). Giving your full attention shows the organizer that their time is valued.
  • I assume the people I work with know what they are doing. They may approach tasks or projects differently than I do, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t executing.
  • I am aware of my surroundings. Many corporations operate in an open-office environment to facilitate collaboration and more face-to-face interaction. It’s important to keep that in mind when having conference calls at my desk and how my volume may affect those working around me.
  • Include the word please. I’ve found that this one word in an email request can go a long way.
  • I say thank you. It is always the right thing to do and the person hearing those two words will greatly appreciate them.

I don’t consider myself perfect, but I owe it to myself and others to hold myself accountable to the standard of professional courtesy that I want to experience, and to demonstrate that it is still alive and well. I’m also curious – what do you do to extend professional courtesies to the people you engage with every day?

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