A few months ago, I posted a bit of a rant called “Return to Decency“. It was motivated by a couple of negative experiences I’d had with some folks who were younger than me. Even in the age group that I’m a part of, it seems some folks weren’t trained how to relate to other people, especially in a professional environment.
I complained about my frustration, but didn’t really provide any suggestions as to how to make things better. Thinking about it now, it occurs to me that it’s not that these folks know what to do, and don’t do it. It’s entirely possible that many folks who give off a negative impression in the workplace honestly don’t know that they’re doing anything wrong.
So, here are some key issues that need to be addressed:
1. Show respect. This means not being overly familiar, keeping your personal and professional life separate, and using generally good manners. This is especially important if you work in the service or retail industries, or anywhere else where you interact with customers frequently. Remember, not everyone wants their server to sit down at the table with them in a restaurant (as an example).
Should the customers be a little less sensitive? Probably. But, you can’t expect them to adjust their standards simply because “people don’t act that way anymore”. You need to adjust the manner in which you act in order to make others feel comfortable. Otherwise, you’ll prove a point (“I can act how I want, no one will tell me what to do!”), but you certainly won’t make a sale.
2. Show up on time. Your boss probably doesn’t care if you were out late with your friends, or forgot to set your alarm. Your customers don’t care that you couldn’t find the location where you planned to meet.
Time isn’t a fluid concept, so you need to be where you say you’re going to be, when you’ve agreed to be there. It is not okay to be late, even by five minutes. That’s just the way it is. If you’re habitually running late, you demonstrate that you don’t value the other person’s time. It will impact their opinion of you.
3. Show initiative. People appreciate employees or service providers that make an effort to “over-deliver”. Do everything that’s asked of you. Also try to do things that weren’t asked of you, but that you know would make the recipient happy.
What these all have in common is putting the needs of others before your own. You need to constantly consider how your actions impact other people, which is what I believe is lacking all too often today. It’s not always about you.
I’m not trying to call anyone out in particular here. Feel free to mention anything I forgot in the comments…