WHERE HAS BUSINESS ETIQUETTE GONE?
Those of you who read Regency fiction will know what this term means: The cut direct. For those that don’t, it refers to the social snub, a complete diss. Which was done very rarely only under extreme circumstances when a person was in the wrong place at the wrong time or behaving in an inappropriate way for their social class or the setting, or importantly was known to have done something shocking or socially unacceptable. It was extreme and it was noteworthy and it was a shocking cut down.
It was not done simply because you were too busy or self-important or didn’t like someone. Despite the accentuated social hierarchy in Regency England, people in those days understood that every person was worthy of acknowledgment regardless of their place. Whether a servant, a merchant or a member of the nobility, everyone had an appropriate address and everyone was acknowledged. It was ungentlemanly and unkind to treat people badly or to just simply ignore them. Not that there were not social boors then as now.
Which brings me to my reason for my blog post today which admittedly is a bit of a rant. This is been bothering me for sometime now.
In the last couple of years, I’ve had occasion to apply for employment or to make inquiries with a number of business people. And I’m frankly still shocked at the lack of appropriate business etiquette that seems to be the norm in today’s world.
I sometimes wonder if it it’s a problem unique to the younger generation but I hope that that’s not the case and I would rather not believe that.
Although if it is a demographic phenomenon I can only assume that the current generation have learned their bad habits or failed to learn good habits from their parents, teachers and mentors. Perhaps we simply forgot to pass along what we understood and took for granted.
Alternatively, and more likely, this can perhaps be explained by our sudden global immersion into an age of electronic communication. Early on (The 80s and 90s?) there was some kerfuffle about lack of etiquette in email communications and people talked about that and took the time to critique and to pass along what they felt were important guidelines for appropriate behavior.
Now of course we have Facebook and Twitter and Instragram and LinkedIn. All these new, abbreviated forms of communication added to our options for and to further confuse our standards of appropriate social congress.
But things have clearly gotten out of hand.
Standards of behavior and modes of communication that might arguably be appropriate for some of the new social media platforms should not therefore translate into our person-to-person, face-to-face interactions. I should say that this does not apply to follows, friends and likes. But I’ll leave advice about what’s appropriate on those platforms to the social media experts.
It used to be and not so very long ago that if you phoned someone and left a message they were socially obligated to return your phone call. It didn’t matter if they were busy or if they didn’t want to talk to you or even if they didn’t like you. The onus was on them and it reflected poorly on them if they simply ignored your message. The same went for written communications and invitations, which clearly extends into the world of e-mail. It maybe electronic but it’s still mail.
If you’re very busy and very important… It’s likely you have staff and one of their responsibilities is to take care of your correspondence. Note the word correspondence: the CO and the RE meaning that it involves two parties and it’s reciprocal.
Sadly we live in an era of spam. We are all of us bombarded with email spam, with advertising, with telephone solicitations of every kind. All of them intrusions into our privacy (you remember privacy don’t you?) And the stuff of course must be ignored and should be ignored but that’s another rant.
But I’m talking about our personal one-to-one communications. The kind that impacts on our daily lives and our livelihood. I realize that sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between one and the other. It’s my belief that we need to assume that a person who’s contacting us with their own name has a good reason to do so, is doing their job and pursuing some worthy goal and deserves to be acknowledged respectfully and politely. Until proven otherwise.
FINISH WHAT YOU START
Furthermore if you initiate communication with a person or persons and then someone responds to that you owe them the courtesy of a reply. If you post a job and receive responses to that in the appropriate mode and manner then the onus is on you and it is appropriate business etiquette to acknowledge and reply to those responses. It is just plain rude to ignore them.
No matter how busy or important you are you owe those people the respect of an acknowledgment. Very likely you have staff whose job it is to do exactly that. It’s up to you to say thank you for responding and then let people know if the position is been filled or if their application is unsuitable. They’re worthy of that. Has our new, electronic age of communication so depersonalized our exchanges with other human beings that we can now without compunction treat them like trash?
Everyone’s time is valuable. If someone made the effort to find your notice, to prepare materials, and to submit them, how can you imagine that it’s alright to just ignore them? Is that how you treat your clients? Is that how you want to be treated? Let’s remember the golden rule people. We’re supposed to be living in a civilized society.
It reflects very poorly on you and on your business and business practices. This applies equally in personal and social situations. And yet regretfully it seems to be the new norm.
What about you? Have you received “the cut direct”? How did it make you feel? Did it change your opinion of that person or company? If you agree with me, how do you think we, as a society, can address this failing? Create courses for students to teach social and business etiquette? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.