Has an email ever rubbed you the wrong way? Have you ever listened to your conference line’s tinny muzak for over 10 minutes waiting for your forever-tardy team to buzz in? Why does this keep happening, you ask? Is business etiquette a thing of the past?
If you’ve asked these questions, you’re not alone. As technology changes and cultures clash, the ways we communicate with each other evolve — and during our 9-5 rush, sometimes it can seem like etiquette and simple manners are left in the dust.
But are people really becoming ruder?
It depends on who you ask. According to one study, 74 percent of us believe people are ruder than they were 20 or 30 years ago. But just because we think our employees and colleagues are getting ruder doesn’t necessarily make it true.
In fact, many experts claim that these societal changes are actually reviving interest in the art of etiquette, both inside and outside of the office.
“We’re living in an age of anxiety that’s a reflection of the near-constant change and confusion in technology and social mores,” etiquette author Steven Petrow told the New York Times.
“Whether it’s wondering how many times it is acceptable to text a date before being seen as a stalker, or what the role of parents is at a same-sex wedding,” he said, “etiquette gurus are popping out from under tablecloths everywhere to soothe all those living in fear of newfangled faux pas.”
An Etiquette Revival
There’s a renewed interest in etiquette and if you want proof, you need only head to YouTube. Type in “manners” and you’ll find thousands of results. Search for “etiquette” and you’ll discover even more. Google search returns over 134 million results for the term and over 12 million for “business etiquette” alone.
Anywhere you go online, you’ll see netizens with questions on proper manners, corporate etiquette and more — and a new generation of experts is all too happy to provide the answers.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Anna Post. Anna Post is the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post. Anna offers wedding and lifestyle advice, but head over to her business advice blog for tips on things like language barriers at work and responding to a client’s note of appreciation.
- Diane Gottsman. Diane shares insights on everything from table manners to New Year’s resolutions, but we especially love her thoughts on professional etiquette. Check out her guide to the do’s and don'ts of Linkedin interaction.
- Jacqueline Whitmore. Jacqueline won us over with her Entrepreneur piece about the benefits of handwritten letters — she definitely understands how to put etiquette knowledge to work building relationships (and brands!)
- Sharon Schweitzer. Sharon offers solid advice for anyone with questions about corporate and business etiquette. Check out her tips for writing emails to international business contacts.
Why is business etiquette still important?
Etiquette is respect in action. No one does a better job of explaining the importance of etiquette than Brendan Fraser’s character in the cult classic Blast From the Past. He says, “Manners are a way of showing other people we care about them,” and he couldn’t be more right. (crazy irony - this was movie was actually on this morning-not for inclusion in the article)
Sending a handwritten thank-you card or introductory email about the new member of your sales team, client or prospect takes time and effort. Investing that time in another person shows them that they’re valued and respected. You aren’t just telling the people around you that you care about them (and your sales goals, brand and company) you’re showing them proof.
Etiquette moves leads through the buyer funnel quickly. When you communicate effectively and create a genuine connection, you’ll be able to move customers and clients through the buyer funnel without forcing them through each step. You’ll demonstrate how invested you are in finding solutions to their needs and you won’t overstep social boundaries and come across as a pushy sales rep in the process.
Etiquette boosts morale. Think about when you were first starting your career — when the boss stopped by your desk to congratulate you on meeting your goals last quarter or politely asked for your feedback on a new project, how did it make you feel?
Etiquette allows executives of all levels to show their employees that their wants and needs are important, and that their hard work is appreciated — and the strongest companies are formed when everyone feels a sense of shared respect.
Etiquette is contagious. The great thing about office etiquette is that it’s contagious. By leading by example, one manager can influence an entire sales department to adopt a new attitude. A single member of a company can completely change workplace dynamics for the better.
When YOU put a value on etiquette you inspire your colleagues to follow in your footsteps.
Etiquette reduces stress. There will always be some stress in your workday. If there isn’t, there should be — a healthy amount of stress shows you’re challenging yourself and taking the risks needed to exceed your goals. But if you dread opening an email from the director of marketing or asking the IT department for help with a server issue, that stress can definitely stall your work, sabotage your sales goals and even derail your career.
Think of proper corporate etiquette as the grease that keeps your productivity train rolling. When you practice etiquette in all of your interactions, you maintain healthy relationships with, leads, clients and colleagues and your lines of communication retain a healthy hum.
Etiquette raises your brand image from the bottom up. “So honey, how was your day?” When you’re asked this question, is your answer usually positive or negative? How do you think others in your company respond?
If you think about it, people are talking about your brand every day — and they’re doing it around dinner tables and happy hour menus. Putting an emphasis on etiquette can ensure the picture others paint is a positive one, giving your brand image a positive glow and building brand loyalty from the bottom up.
Building a cordial culture around your brand truly has a positive effect on a holistic level, but for most of us the process doesn’t always come naturally. Want to improve your own etiquette skills this quarter? Inspire your team to stay positive and professional. Try hanging one of these quotes next to your monitor or in your break room:
15 Great Quotes to Inspire Business Etiquette
1. “Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.” - Laurence Sterne
2. “Politeness is half good manners and half good lying.” - Mary Wilson Little
3. “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” - Emily Post
4. “You can get through life with bad manners, but it's easier with good manners.” - Lillian Gish
5. “The greater the controversy, the more you need manners.” - Judith Martin
6. “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” - Clarence Thomas
7. “Good manners are cost effective. They not only increase the quality of life in the workplace, they contribute to employee morale, embellish the company image, and play a major role in generating profit.” - Letitia Baldrige
8. “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him." - David Brinkley
9. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou
10. “When people honor each other, there is a trust established that leads to synergy, interdependence, and deep respect. Both parties make decisions and choices based on what is right, what is best, what is valued most highly.” - Blaine Lee
11. “People will typically be more enthusiastic where they feel a sense of belonging and see themselves as part of a community than they will in a workplace in which each person is left to his own devices” - Alfie Kohn
12. “Standards are not established by your proclamations they are established by your routines.” - T Jay Taylor
13. “Civility costs nothing and buys everything.” - Mary Wortley Montagu
14. “Etiquette is behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential.” - Will Cuppy
15. “Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.” - Laurence Sterne
Want to put etiquette to work for you? We can help! Check out our guide to sending handwritten thank you notes or visit our blog for more ideas on how you can create genuine and lasting connections with your clients and customers.