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May 27, 2009

People trust what they can see. People trust competence.

That’s the conclusion of a Sunday Des Moines Register editorial ‘Iowa governments have work to do on trust’.

Stephen L. Carter writes in his book ‘Civility: Manner, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy’---“Civility has two parts: generosity, even when it is costly, and trust, even when there is risk.”

We tend to extend trust until we find reasons not to trust. When we’re fearful, in these days about the economy, about our own future, it’s difficult to maintain trust when we don’t know what decisions are being made and sense governments aren’t solving problems.

Whom can we trust?
The Register editorial asks for openness and displays of competence to rebuild confidence.

Last month a United Press International story had this headline and lead: ‘Poll: Most trust Obama's economic actions PRINCETON, N.J., April 13 (UPI) -- More than two-thirds of Americans asked expressed at least a fair amount of confidence in President Barack Obama's economic decisions, a Gallup poll indicated.’

Obama is in the headlines. He addresses the nation. He holds press conferences. He consults with many. He is operating in the open, telling us what he thinks and when he changes his thinking. There’s a barrage of communication. His communication skills and innate humility instill confidence.

The Register is right in advocating for openness and competence. Those qualities earn back the trust we’ve lost.

We lose in every way when we lose trust, Jan. 9, 2008

Des Moines Register editorial, May 24, 2009

United Press International, April 13, 2009 article

May 20, 2009

An example of what to do when you don’t receive the customer service and communication you expect

I made the decision. I was the parent with two daughters and a son-in-law. We’d eat the free breakfast at the motel. They started serving at 6 a.m. Our flight was at 7:30. We were at the airport hotel. It was a small airport, smaller than the Des Moines airport.

We got to the Delta Airlines desk at 6:35. There was no electronic check in. There was no one behind the desk. Just the marquee listing the 7:30 flight to Atlanta.

One daughter inquired at the next airline’s desk. “Knock on the door behind the Delta counter,” she was told. A woman appeared, listened for a moment and said it was not possible to get on the flight. We all talked to her at once; she asked how many held tickets. She was insistent that no luggage could be checked and we were simply too late. We could see the security check-in; there were several attendants but no customers. It was definitely not the customer service culture we were accustomed to.

The attendent finally asked for the two passports and disappeared behind the door. Some minutes later, she appeared with two tickets but said we couldn’t check luggage. We cleared security quickly and stood in line to board. I confessed to the attendant we’d been too late to check luggage. He said that was not a problem. And in Atlanta, everyone had to take checked bags through security so we found extremely helpful airline folks that showed us which desk to use because we had no tags saying we wanted our luggage to end up in Minneapolis.

The difference in customer service and communication in Panama City and those in Atlanta and Minneapolis was striking. I decided Delta Airlines needed to know. I sent an email with the flight numbers. My point was I knew we were late checking in for an international flight, but it would have been helpful to tell everyone landing in Panama City that you’d better be on time when you fly out because these people love to enforce rules.

Perhaps you’re wondering how civility fits in the story. In ‘The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude’ P.M. Forni devotes about half the book to examples of how to respond to rudeness, to be assertive. My purpose was to help others who would probably have a similar experience.

Delta responds
“I am sorry that in this instance you did not receive the service you expected and should have received from our airport agents. Feedback like yours will help us improve our airport process and customer experience. Please know I will be sharing your comments with our Customer Service and Airport Operations leadership team for internal follow up….As a goodwill gesture, I have issued our $50.00 electronic Transportation Credits each for you and Ms. Clarissa Spicer.”

The response was more than I had hoped for.

Be assertive. It’s what to do when you don’t get the service or communication you expect.

May 15, 2009

Good manners are the lubricating oil of organizations

Peter Drucker, political economist and management consultant (1909-2005), said that.

One coworker told me she hovers at cubicles, waiting for people to get off the phone. Solution: I try to find a chair close by to sit down and wait until I can hear that person is free.

I find it frustrating to try to get the attention of someone who has on headphones and is ensconced by high walls. More on cubicles, Those cubicles, May 22, 2007

What to do?
One commenter this week asked “When someone sneezes hard in a meeting, should you say "God Bless You" or does that just draw more attention to the sneezing co-worker??? If someone sitting next to you falls asleep, during a long meeting, should you nudge them or just leave them alone??”

Solutions: “And while most people know that it’s polite to say “excuse me” after sneezing or “gesundheit” when someone else does……..”
Source: Puffs tissues, made by Procter & Gamble, with suggestions from The Emily Post Institute. (I couldn’t find anything else on the sneezing question.)

Someone falls asleep next to you in a meeting . I can find no information on this. May I answer……..it depends? It depends on how well you know the person; if really well, I’d nudge him or her. If the person is drooling or making noises, I’d nudge him or her.

Food in the workplace is a hot topic. Personally, I cringe when I hear the scraping of flatware on china in the cubicles….as if I’m in a restaurant. Food in common areas—eat and drink only what you’ve put in the refrigerator or been told is community food. Clean up after yourself and once in a while, clean up the common areas. Don’t we all have to do that at home? If someone repeatedly does not clean up after him- or herself, I’d ask that person to please wash the tabletop, do the dishes. If it’s a community room, the community should use it, clean up and police it.

The etiquette we appreciate
Two comments on Monday’s post help end National Etiquette Week.
“I really appreciate the person who greets me at the front desk or on the phone who is cheerful, professional and ready to assist me.”

“I like the Disney philosophy. All employees are "cast members" and are part of the "show." What a difference it would make if we all thought of our jobs in that way - or all of our lives. How can we improve someone else's experience?”

Remember, etiquette is a code of conduct. It has a practical purpose. It puts you and those you interact with at ease in social and business settings. It’s being polite and considerate of others. It is often common sense.

May 14, 2009

How’s your netiquette?

Netiquette is etiquette over networks including mailing lists, blogs, forums, email and all the places we post on the Internet. Netiquette focuses on professionalism, good communication and maintaining a tenable work environment.

We are learning that most anything posted on the Internet can become public even though we may not think about that as we’re typing a message.

Social media
This post is now the most visited on this blog: Failing the civility test in social media, July 31, 2008,

I’ve written a great deal about email; these are listed by most visited at the top of the list.

Email anatomy, Oct. 24, 2007

Email emotions—duplicity and anger including sarcasm, loaded phrases and rhetorical questions, July 9, 2007

Subject: Your professionalism shows in email, April 25, 2007

The strengths and weaknesses of email, Aug. 8, 2007

Think before you send. Send email you would like to receive. June 26, 2007

Work email and personal email are quite different in two ways, Aug. 13, 2007

The six types of email, Aug. 22, 2007

The human touch, alternatives to email, June 28, 2007

9 Email Resolutions for 2009, Jan. 6, 2009

Will your email or text message make the news?, March 21, 2008

May 13, 2009

Do you have a dress code for the workplace?

Written dress codes may be a largely a thing of the past but there are workplaces with that touch of civility left. In Panama City, I stayed in an apartment with a balcony overlooking a government building. For three mornings, I watched people come to work and it was an odd exception to see someone not in a suit. Women wore pants or skirts, but always with matching suit jackets. They were navy which made me believe there was a code. The blouses and shoes varied. The cuts of the suits varied.

Last week I received a volunteer newsletter from the city hospital, Mary Greeley Medical Center. I was surprised, actually, to read this paragraph:
Dress code reminder
As we approach warmer weather, we need to be mindful of the MGMC dress code. As you know this includes no shorts or Capri pants. Sandals are allowed however, flip-flops are not. Any open toed sandals must be worn with socks, pantyhose or tights. And legs must be covered completely with pantyhose or tights when wearing a skirt.
(I volunteer for meals on wheels and they haven’t thus far enforced this dress code for that activity.)

Business casual
Giovinella Gonthier in ‘Rude Awakenings: Overcoming the Civility Crisis in the Workplace’ says we’ve never been taught what ‘business casual’ means. She provides a rule: The more you deal with a client’s money, future or family, the more conservative a role you should present. She says dress according to your activities and responsibilities for that particular day, keeping in mind your industry, company’s dress code and your position within the organization. She defines standard business casual as a top, bottom and third piece such as a casual jacket, sweater, tie, scarf or vest. For more casual, she drops the third piece.

What really sets people apart is the care of the clothing such as polished shoes and pressed shirts plus grooming and posture.

Your appearance helps define your attitude for the day. If you feel good about yourself…….you’re set for a good day.

May 12, 2009

4 rules for cell phone etiquette in the office

There are personal cell phones. Increasingly people have office cell phones, sometimes the land lines are gone.

Courtesy is still king, even in this high-tech, fast-paced, instant communication era. Cell phones need to be handled like other technologies that have been assimilated into appropriate usage.

1. Cell phone ring
If you have a cell phone at work, the ring should be professional and tolerable rather than annoying. Many people will hear it. Putting cell phones on vibrate mode or silent are options; vibrating phones left unattended on desktops are annoying.

2. Cell phone volume – ring and conversation
How loud is your office phone? How loud do you talk into your landline phone? Those are good gauges for cell phone ring volume and voice volume. There's no need to speak any louder into a wireless phone than a landline phone.

3. Cell phone interruptions
Taking a call no matter where you are or what you are doing with no regard to what or who you are interrupting is rude. Technology is not a substitute for common sense.

4. Personal cell phone calls
(How acceptable are personal calls in your office? Are there rules or guidelines? What is the culture?)
Keep personal conversations brief or go to a private area, perhaps outside. If you use a private room, don’t slam the door when you go in. Maintain at least a 10-foot zone from anyone while talking. Don’t have inappropriate conversations in public.

Send a message with your cell phone use
Be respectful of those around you and use discretion when it comes to placing and taking cell phone calls in public---including in the workplace. Your coworkers will thank you for your civility.

Related post
Was a cell phone invited to your meeting or dinner? Feb. 26, 2008

May 11, 2009

It’s National Etiquette Week--May 11-15

This week is a time to raise awareness of courtesy, civility, kindness and manners, a time to rally more people to act with good manners in their everyday lives.

Etiquette is a code of conduct. It has a practical purpose. It puts you and those you interact with at ease in social and business settings. It’s being polite and considerate of others. It is often common sense.

Etiquette evolves over time and varies from community to community, particularly by different cultures so it’s important to observe the etiquette in a particular setting. Some etiquette is written; some is unwritten.

This week, I’m going to focus on office etiquette in the United States. Office etiquette can cover interaction within an office or interactions with external contacts such as customers and suppliers. Workplace etiquette is being professional and recognizing you are in a public place. It is being less intrusive and more considerate of those you work with.

So what should I cover under this broad topic?
Cell phones, desk phones, cubicles, meetings, conversations, Internet use including email, food and drink in the office, dress code, what and how to communicate. I’m sure there are more.

You tell me. I’m scheduled to give a talk on office etiquette in October.

What good manners and bad manners do you observe in the workplace today? What do others do that is considerate and you come away thinking---that was really nice? And conversely, what interrupts your work day and seems intrusive?

May 05, 2009

11 causes of rudeness

Rudeness diminishes and demeans others. It is taking without giving.

Unfocused rudeness is done in obliviousness.
Focused rudeness is mean-spirited. Continued focused rudeness can be bullying or harassment.

Rudeness damages others by creating stress, eroding self-esteem, creating problems in relationships, making things difficult at work and escalating into violence. Rudeness leaves us vulnerable to self-doubt and anxiety. People who are treated rudely can withdraw or become aggressive.

Acts of workplace rudeness, of incivility are a serious threat to our quality of life. Productivity is inevitably compromised.

What causes rudeness?
1. Individualism and lack of restraint—I’ll do it my way. When we care little about what others think of us, we think little of them. We feel less bound by respect and restraint.
2. Inflated self-worth—People who are self-absorbed don’t value others except as a means to fulfill needs and desires.
3. Low self-worth—People who are insecure may become defensive and hostile.
4. Materialism—The quest for money and possessions to be happier often is futile and frustrating, resulting in less kindness to others.
5. Injustice—People who perceive they have been treated unfairly can become demoralized, depressed, indignant or outraged. The injustice may be a feeling of envy—it’s unfair that you are smarter, better looking, wealthier than I am.
6. Stress—People who are overworked or overwhelmed with things to do can react from stress.
7. Anonymity—We move among strangers on the streets; we don’t know our neighbors.
8. Not needing others—“We are content in electronic isolation. This is not exactly a strong incentive to work on our social skills….We want the feeling that we can connect with them without the burden of having them at our door.”
9. Anger
10. Fear
11. Mental health problems

---Source: The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude by P.M. Forni
This is Forni’s second book on civility. He’s a leading authority on civility.

Civility does not mean one ignores rudeness---I’ll get to that.