Let me count the ways. Good manners do mean good business. Etiquette in a job interview can often mean whether you are described as a lout or someone with professional manners. People watch your actions. They judge you by the image you project.
The issues of etiquette or ways of behaving first begin with technology. Beepers come to mind. It is rude for a student to have a beeper go off where a professor is lecturing or giving instructions. All calls should be held until the classroom experience is finished. The student should not have to race past the professor every time the beeper goes off. I appreciated a student recently apologizing for the beeper going off during class. That student showed class and a willingness to admit an etiquette error. At the recent Comdex keynote meetings in Las Vegas, beepers and pagers went off during the presentation. If you can imagine, the person behind me answered the cell telephone and carried on a short conversation during the keynote address. That person should receive the "rude-of-the-day" plaque for being inconsiderate of others. Surely, the telephone call could have been answered later, or the person, in the worst circumstances, could have taken the call outside the meeting hall.
I thought the beeper problem was lessening in our society. Picture you are sitting in a comfortable theater listening to a production of the musical, Cabaret. Suddenly, a beeper goes off in the middle of the audience. How rude can that person be who let the beeper sound. Surely, no telephone call is so important that the person can't wait until the intermission to make that necessary telephone call.
86 percent--inappropriate over dinnerHow do you judge whether a cell phone is inappropriate in a jury deliberation room or a classroom? If the cell phone interferes with the learning process or the seriousness of the situation, please place the cell phone somewhere else. The situation of banning cell phones in posh restaurants remains prickly. Where does freedom of speech begin and the rights of others coincide? Politeness and responsibility still have to exist in our society. Peggy Post, earlier alluded to, suggests personal removal may be the best answer:
88 percent--inappropriate in a meeting
96 percent--inappropriate in a movie
98 percent--inappropriate at a funeral.
People using these phones forget that everyone around them can hear every word they are saying, and they often speak loudly. It is preferable to remove yourself from a group to a quiet corner in order to make or take calls so as not to bother others. It is ludicrous to ask those around you to hush.With this good advice you must use your best judgment. Others don't expect you to take the attitude you are not bothering them.
Lately, I came across a fascinating little book appropriately entitled The Little Instruction Book of Business Etiquette by Valerie Sokolosky. Here's an example of the homespun advice given about eating and good manners:
Be a good guest by practicing good manners:
In the list I especially liked how to handle the balancing act when you are given a plate of food and no place to sit down. Nothing is more frustrating than to watch at a Meet the Firms Night or whatever people trying to shake hands without losing their food on the floor. Common sense seems to reign in the previous list.
Recently, one of my students asked about how to act during an informational interview. The rules probably also apply to an employment interview or other types of interview. First, go dressed for success. You are representing the university as part of your assignment. Therefore, first impressions mean a great deal.
When you first meet the individual who will provide your informational interview, wait until a hand is offered and shake "web to web." A firm handshake is necessary without breaking the other person's hand. Take your cues from the interviewee. Wait until you are offered a seat. You are a guest in that person's office. Listen carefully to the person's name and make sure you pronounce it carefully before, during, and after the interview. Look at the interviewee without staring. Make sure your questions are thoughtfully phrased. Enunciate your words and wait for pauses. Show you are interested in what the other person is stating. Ask if you can take notes or record. Then, assiduously apply your notetaking to get the main ideas or keywords.
Let's talk about what you do during a job interview when you are invited to lunch or dinner. Your purpose is not to eat. You are there to make polite conversation and sell your qualifications. You should take your cues from the interviewers about what to order. Still, I would not choose greasy foods or soups that require slurping. You want to have impeccable table manners. You should know what utensil is used for. Don't be surprised if you are greeted with a multitude of silverware.
In her recently published book, Miss Manners Basic Training-Communication, Judith Martin (Miss Manners) commented on the newer communication means, such as fax, e-mail, and cellular telephones. She mentioned the following points for consideration:
Think about the profoundness of that point. We do not always take enough time to evaluate what we saying with the newer technologies. We just send the message and hope for the best. That is not a good idea. Take time to say the message right.
Perhaps it is better to state the message in person. You want to see the nonverbal cues and deal with the issue face to face. Maybe a letter is a better means of conveying the message than an e-mail. You hear people say they want to fax their resumes. It could be time to follow up that fax with a hard copy in much better form of the resume. The world is not moving so fast that messages should not take time to be properly conveyed.
Cellular telephones should not be used in social gatherings where the host or hostess is clearly put out that business cannot be transacted at the office. Cellular telephone should not be used in place of face-to-face conversations because the medium of technology is easier to work with. Miss Manners also addresses the issues of call waiting and call forwarding as intrusive problems when working with the technology.
Television newscasters featured the five top impossible cellular telephone calls the 911 operators have to deal with. In order of importance, the five dumbest cellular calls follow:
As I pondered the closing months of Summer, 1997, I was reminded of the rudeness of some students. They ask for an appointment and never show up. Special arrangements had to be made to come to the office. The student did not have the courtesy to call and say the appointment was not possible. You should always give a reason for breaking an appointment and reschedule if you can. Letitia Baldrige, author of three books on etiquette and a guru on the subject, recommends we always keep the promises we make. Your reputation is built on your ability to keep promises.
Some of the points from her book, Complete Guide to The New Manners for the '90s, are also worth noting. She believes you should be as nice to the people at the bottom of the organization as to the top. My Dad had a famous saying when he went into teaching: "Be nice to the custodians and the secretaries." I never forgot that advice, and, on many occasions, that advice has helped me improve etiquette. Baldrige phrases this niceness in the following way: "If you want to look at it clinically, every person in that office environment may be key to the advancement of your career (Baldrige, 74)."
To me Letitia Baldrige is the essence of manners, whether on David Letterman or meeting in person. At one point I attempted to collect Mrs. Baldrige's autograph. I was late getting to Downtown Los Angeles after teaching a class. Mrs. Baldrige was appearing at the Los Angeles Downtown Library as part of special programs. After parking, I raced into the library and the auditorium and found no Mrs. Baldrige. I had cradled her book, Letitia Baldrige's Complete Guide to Executive Manners, under my arm in hopes of the autograph. Suddenly, I saw her crossing one of the busy streets en route to a skyscraper restaurant. After entering the office building with the restaurant, I observed which elevator she took with a friend. After leaving the elevator on the second floor, I judiciously followed the two people to the restaurant entrance. You have to believe in your autograph dreams. I approached her cautiously; after all, I was dealing with the guru of etiquette. She graciously agreed to sign the book before she and her friend secured a table. That was the highlight of that afternoon.
Tom Snyder on his late night talkshow had Letitia Baldrige as his guest. She commented on how people's rudeness has increased. Suppose you have someone who is giving you fits at work. The person is badmouthing you behind your back. What do you do? According to Baldrige, you draw that person aside away from the rest of the employees and say: "I know you are a good person. Perhaps we got started on the wrong foot. I don't like what you are saying about me. It makes me feel uncomfortable. Hey, you're hurting me. I want you to continue to be a good person and quit hurting me. What can we do to make our relationship more comfortable?" It takes courage to attempt what Baldrige is suggesting. How much better our world would be if we could communicate as human beings.
Tom talked to Letitia about the dangers faced with rudeness on the highway. Mrs. Baldrige believes that the suddeness of the rudeness on the highway creates a particularly terrifying situation. She also believes people do not pay attention when they are using cell telephones in their cars. Mr. Snyder told a funny story where an MG had cut off a Rolls Royce in a parking lot. The driver of the MG said to the Rolls Royce occupant: "I guess small cars will always win over big cars." The Rolls Royce driver proceeded to flatten the MG and replied: "I guess rich cars will always win over poor cars."
Mr. Snyder, the former newsman, asked about faux pas Letitia has experienced in her life. Mrs. Baldrige described a scene in Paris after World War II and during the Kennedy administration where the French ambassador was seated by her next to the French Ambassador's wife's lover. Obviously, that faux pas created a major diplomatic challenge. The American Ambassador to France noticed the error in time and reseated everyone before dinner was served.
You may have heard the name, Chris Evert. She won many U.S. tennis titles as well as four Wimbledons. We would call that effort an outstanding performance. At the moment Chris has joined with two other partners to form her own Tennis Academy. Chris was brought back to me as I was reading an airplane magazine. The article about her gave all kinds of tips on how to improve one's tennis game. What caught my eye was the statement about enforcing etiquette on the court.
Suppose you are playing an opponent who does not see the baseline balls and misses some of the close service calls. What do you do? You can tell the opponent to watch the calls more closely during the match. That will not necessarily endear you to your opponent. Chrisy's advice about how to handle the opponent's incorrect calls is worth noting:
"I would definitely say something between games. You don't want to get furious. But you might say something like, 'The pros have linespeople and we don't, so I'd appreciate it if you would take more care with your calls.' " (Sky, August, 1997, p. 78)
Mrs. Evert recommends we do not become doormats, but we remain polite. Think about this story the next time you want to tell someone off. Think about the other person's feelings and whether you can soften the blow. You can talk softly and firmly without irritating and permanently losing your opponent.
Frances Hersey, Acting Director of Career Services, Sweet Briar College, Virginia, provided some excellent, general tips on dressing for success at a job interview. Her ideas were featured in the Colorado Springs newspaper, The Gazette, Lifestyle section, August 11, 1997. Ms. Hersey believes we should always choose an outfit that is comfortable and that you look good in. She definitely considers it a no-no to use heavy perfume or heavy makeup. I will never forget a former colleague, a nice lady, who wore such heavy perfume you could smell the odor halfway down the hall. The perfume should only exhibit a hint of odor. It is the idea of not being objectionable with heavy eye shadow or extremely long nails.
Ms. Hersey picks up this concern about heaviness by stressing you should not cause a reaction to the prospective interviewer. For the women, she stresses simple jewelry. I would add that accessories should be kept to a minimum. Jingling bracelets, says Ms. Hersey, should be avoided at all costs.
"What you do should be more important than what you wear. You should be able to be taken seriously, no matter what you have one. In an ideal world. But we're not there yet." (Craig Wilson and Maria Puente, "Just Barely Dressed for On-the-Job Success," USA Today, 4 April 2000, D (Life), p. D1.)
Fashions continue to change at work. The Wall Street Journal (October 8, 1997) featured an article discussing how women's fashions are changing at work. Women of power who know they have arrived are feeling freer to wear four-inch stiletto heels to work as well as slit leather skirts. You have to ask yourself about the issue of promoting possible sexual harassment. Even such noted designers as Donna Karan believe that fashion has been stuck in the masculine. Women do not have to shop for mannish outfits anymore, such as shirts and certain tailored suits. They can exercise their femininity at work. Eyebrows continue to be raised, according to the Journal article. Stores like Macy's are stocking stiletto heels. Bloomingdale's and Dayton Hudson (Detroit) are stocking brown slit skirts with a red cat-eye print. Designers quickly explain that the trick to carrying off such feminine outfits in the workplace remains moderation. The designer, Cynthia Rowley, believes in invisible zippers "that can make a slit as short-or long-as a woman wants." Confidence and risk are involved in wearing these outfits. I would still say wear a uniform if you are applying for a position. You may choose the stiletto heels and slit skirts after you are hired, depending on the environment you encounter.
Last updated Friday, September 4, 2002
(c)copyright G. Jay Christensen, 1998, All Rights Reserved