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The Pinky Is the Only Finger You Should Extend

Manners_place_settingOne of my "unofficial roles" is that of casting director.  No, no, no... not associated with Hollywood blockbusters.  Leonardo and George never return calls.  Angelina would simply laugh in my face.  I'm talking about a "casting director" more in the same vein as Phil Gerbyshak's relationship geek status.  If I know of an employer with a need, and I know of somebody who would be beyond perfect for that role, I try to orchestrate a meeting and let nature take its course.  So it seemed like a natural extension when I had a friend and former client in sudden, desparate need for an HR manager with project management and manufacturing experience... and I had a student who was a project manager within the HR field.  Not just any student... this guy was SHARP as a tack, professional, personable... he was THE perfect fit.

I made the introductions, and the interviewing process began.  As expected, they hit it off perfectly.  A few discussions later, and an offer was extended.  That's when things got weird.  My former student didn't return calls or emails.  A few weeks down the road, he finally contacted his potential employer and admitted that money was the issue.  They made some adjustments to their offer and called him back.  Again, days went by with no response, either from email or phone.  I'm uncertain where they stand now, but I'm left scratching my head, and my former client is rather irritated with my former student.  What went wrong?

Manners_shake_handsOne thing is certain, there is a severe lack of professional courtesy in today's world.  I'm not talking about where to place your napkin during business lunches, or learning to curb yourself after two drinks at the bar, or what stationery to use when creating a hand-written thank you note.  I am referring to simple "service level agreements" on answering within a reasonable time frame.  It's about the ability to respond quickly and reasonably - be it by email or phone - to another's inquiry... even if the news is not favorable.  A couple of relevant, related reads on the subject come from Starbucker and Delaney Kirk, who talk about grace and good first impressions, respectively.

It's really all about perceptions and expectations.  Common courtesy is really nothing more than common sense.  In the professional setting, blindsiding others or leaving them hanging is generally what gets people into trouble.

So, here's a question for all of you on the blogosphere.  I'm currently hammering out the details for curriculum on my new course in office politics.  What do you think about adding a short unit on professional courtesy and business etiquette?


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Delaney Kirk

Absolutely add this to your course topics. Your students would benefit from a discussion of civility, professionalism, and etiquette just as much as any other subject matter.

Terry Starbucker

Ditto Tim- Delaney is spot-on. Cultivating "grace" is a key starting point. All the best.

Shelley Davison

Yes, add the business etiquette. Being in an office environment, I've noticed a lack of professionalism.

Phil Gerbyshak

Tim - This is a great idea to add to the curriculum. Just remember that there is no difference between business ethics and personal ethics, you're either ethical or you're not.

Timothy Johnson

Delaney, Terry, Shelley, and Phil - thanks for weighing in on this... it would seem you're in good company. Most people perceive a serious lack of professionalism in today's professionals.

ann michael

Tim - that's a great idea! Interestingly, while I hear many people refer to this as an age related issue (i.e., the younger the person the less likely they are to demonstrate these skills), I find that it crosses age groups. It's not simply a matter of the older and younger generations interacting and not understanding each other. There is a basic gap in regard to showing respect for others - regardless of your age group.

Sandra Renshaw

Great post. Yes, yes, yes. Please include those topics. Sounds like a wonderful class.


Timothy Johnson

Ann and Sandra... I'd say that a "critical mass" of bloggers has spoken... my politics students will get a little lesson in professional courtesy as well. Thanks for weighing in.

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