Etiquette at Work

Article excerpt

Once upon a time, workplace etiquette faux pas were reserved for those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed college graduates who were eager to get their foot on the corporate ladder and begin climbing. Eager, but green.

"With age comes wisdom," the saying goes, but not everything is so cut and dry these days. In today's corporate environment, social graces are slipping across the board, from interns to seasoned executives with years of experience.

"I get a lot of calls about this. It's definitely on a lot of people's minds," says Sheryl Trower, president of The Etiquette School of Central Pennsylvania. "Everyone has gotten so casual, and I think we've just lost our formality as a society. We've become more casual in everything we do, and that falls into the workplace."

But what is proper etiquette, exactly? Mention those two little words, and it isn't hard to conjure up an image of a gnarled finger wagging in your direction, a sermon of "don't do that!" suffocating the air.

"The word 'proper' carries the kind of negative connotation about what etiquette really is; that it's about strict, formal rules of conduct," says Peter Post, managing director of The Emily Post Institute, author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success," and the great-grandson of the lady herself. "What etiquette helps you do is built strong relationships. Business is built on relationships -- the success you are going to have in your business life is going to be, in large measure, your ability to build relationships with colleagues, customers, bosses. Emily Post built relationships with people. Within a few minutes, people felt like they were her best friend and they had known her forever."

Those who are skeptical of how much of an asset good etiquette can be in the climb up the corporate ladder, take note: Recent studies conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Institute indicated that 85 percent of future success depends on social skills, including the ability to put another at ease, with only 15 percent attributed to technical skills.

That ability to genuinely connect to others and its direct correlation to success in the workplace is one of the cornerstones of The Dale Carnegie Leadership Training program, which recently celebrated its 100th year of professional and personal development.

"It's so important," says John Rodgers, president of the Dale Carnegie franchise in Western Pennsylvania. "Everyone gets very good at the technical aspects of their job, which is why many people get promoted. But then they hit kind of a wall or a challenge on the leadership side on how they really relate to people. At some point, it's less about what you can do and more about what you can get done through other people.

"So, the question then becomes, 'How do I truly unleash the talents in my team?' Anybody can be a boss. If you give me enough authority, I can tell you to do something and I will get performance. Research shows again and again that leaders can lead an engaged workforce if they lead in inspiration, with a positive attitude, positive motivation and being enthusiastic. (That's) where etiquette, manners and good human relations (come in). It's that inner engine that runs. That's what people connect with."

According to the experts, it's up to the head honcho to set the precedents in the office. …