It wasn’t until I entered into the world of image consulting that the term “civility” became one of my favorite and treasured words. It’s a word that I try to live by every day despite the fact we encounter acts of incivility on a daily basis. As a child, my parents would teach me to “rise above it.” This provided the training ground I needed to help navigate through the corporate world as I became an adult.
Today, as a certified image consultant and personal branding expert, I work with many clients on teaching them the importance of embracing civility into their every day work life to help build and sustain long term business relationships. You might be asking yourself what exactly “civility” means. According to various dictionary resources, civility can be defined as the act of showing regard for others; manners; politeness; or a polite act or expression. For me, I define civility as providing a safe, comfortable and professional setting in order to build trust between those I am with.
Being civil in the workplace is critical to one’s success. It helps to project a positive and professional personal brand that can be leveraged for future career opportunities. Employers want to have confidence in their employees that in any given any workplace situation (positive or negative), that employee will handle with civility.
Here is a short list to help you start incorporating acts of civility into the workplace in hopes that it becomes contagious! What other acts would you add?
- Acknowledge colleagues with a hello, good morning, good night, etc.
- Say thank you, please, excuse me when necessary and applicable.
- Refrain from stating negative comments about a colleague, manager or the company and this includes posting to social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
- Refrain from talking negative about a situation and instead offer a solution.
- If you see a colleague struggling with a project, offer to help.
- Own your mistakes. We all make them and more often than not, we learn a tremendous amount by making them.
- Be respectful of cultural differences in the workplace.
- Communicate respectfully and don’t follow that old saying “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
- Respect different points of view.
- Respect and practice company policy and protocol (i.e., no web surfing during company time, spending company funds on personal items, etc.)
- Dress appropriate for the office and in a manner that illustrates professionalism.
- Pay it forward whenever possible – always remember what or when someone did something nice for you and pass it on to the next person.
- Provide “constructive” criticism and not “destructive” criticism.
- Respect project timelines.
- Be gracious for company perks; however big or small you deem them to be.
- Acknowledge a job well done.
- Respect meeting times.
- Be in the moment – refrain from blackberry browsing when someone is speaking to you.
- Be respectful of personal space.
- Say what you mean, mean what you say.
Growing up I was taught to send thank you cards to those who were kind enough to give me a gift for special occasions such as a birthday, communion, graduation etc. or performed an act of kindness that my parents felt warranted a thank you note. While I didn’t look forward to this ritual I did learn the importance and meaning behind it and as a result, it has helped me both personally and professionally.
Sending a thank you doesn’t just apply to gift givers but also includes acts of professional kindness such as a client referral, a business introduction, or an interview. Taking a few minutes out of your day to craft a nice thank you note will most definitely set you apart.
I’ve recently become surprised at how many people no longer think it necessary to send a thank you note; for anything! I cannot determine if it’s because of the perceived “casualness” of today’s society and people view thank you notes as a more “formal” task or is it that people just don’t know any better?
If you believe that a thank you note / email / phone call is “old school” and not necessary in today’s world, here are 5 (I think) great reasons to counter that argument. After reading, let me know if I’ve changed your mind!
1. It eliminates the guesswork – a gesture, whether it’s sending a gift or maybe a client referral, business contact etc. should be acknowledged because it enables the giver/sender to know that it was received. How often have you wondered whether your gift was received? Or if that a client referral or connection worked out for the receiver? With technology at our fingertips at all times, a simple thank you takes only a few minutes to craft and send.
2. It builds rapport and establishes long-term relationships – taking a few minutes out of your schedule to acknowledge a kind act helps to build rapport and trust in both personal and professional relationships. People want to do business (or develop relationships) with people they like.
3. It shows respect – thanking someone shows that you have respect for that person and their time. If someone takes the time out of their schedule to do something nice for you, why wouldn’t you show respect to that person and acknowledge their kindness?
4. It demonstrates good manners – think about how you feel when someone doesn’t say please or thank you to you. It’s not a nice feeling right? Why? Because as early back as you can remember, your parents instilled the importance of manners so when it’s not returned to you, it’s disappointing.
5. It shows gratitude – at times I feel there is a strong sense of entitlement amongst people today and I often wonder if this is why showing gratitude is a foreign concept for some. Recently, a friend sent me a client referral and I was grateful that she took time out to not only recommend me but she called to give me a little background on this individual so that I was prepared for the conversation. I was truly grateful and sent her a handwritten thank you note. Once received, she called to tell me that she cannot remember the last time she received a note like mine and it made her day.
So did I change your mind? Will you be sending more thank you notes when appropriate?
Thanks for taking time to read this blog article
Much of my professional career was spent in technology marketing up until a few years ago when I decided to become a certified Image Consultant and founded my own business. Having worked in a corporate environment gave me unique insights into behavior that got people noticed and ultimately promoted. Many employees overlook their misuse of email and are surprised to learn that it does negatively impact their image in the workplace.
Here are a few tips you can start to implement in your email messages that will help you communicate more effectively with your colleagues, customers, prospective customers and vendors and also provide you with a competitive edge in the office.
1. You craft a great subject line – I’m not suggesting you take creative writing classes and craft an award winning subject line; I’m suggesting that your subject line represents (in a succinct manner) the body of your email. Have you ever received an email with a long chain of responses and by the time it gets to you, the body of the email has nothing to do with the subject line?
2. You highlight next steps – On average, we receive approximately 200-300 emails a day so if you need the recipient to take action, be sure to indicate and highlight action items or next steps.
3. You summarize an email chain – Don’t expect the recipient to read through an email chain and respond accordingly. Take a few minutes to summarize the chain and indicate why you are forwarding it to recipient.
4. You don’t “reply all” – If the content isn’t applicable to everyone on the original email distribution, don’t hit reply all. If you do, it is a complete time waster for all those on the email.
5. You don’t forward “sensitive” emails – Before forwarding ANY email check the content and be sure it doesn’t contain any confidential information or negative comments about a manager, colleague, customer, etc.
6. You spell check – There is a function called “Tools” so be sure to turn on spelling & grammar.
7. You don’t use acronyms – refrain from LOL, LMAO, DL, WTH, etc. Corporate email communications are business related and should written in a professional and more serious tone rather than an email written to a friend.
Do you have any effective email tips that you want to share?
It’s that time of year again when eating drinking and acting merry is the norm. The holiday season is filled with endless celebrations both at home and in the office. What one does in their own home is their business but the office is a public venue and can make or break one’s career.
Having worked in the corporate world as a marketing professional for some time, I can tell you that I’ve seen my share of careers gone bad because of inappropriate behavior at the annual holiday office party. It’s OK to have fun and enjoy your accomplishments at year end but why risk your reputation and potentially your job by showing poor judgment in one night.
Here’s my take on 8 career limiting mistakes that happen at the holiday office party and I can say that I have witnessed many of these.
1. Don’t do club wear – plunging necklines (yes this is for both men & women) short mini’s, excessive make up, funky footwear, overpowering perfume and cologne can be left for weekends not the office party.
Dress is too revealing for an office party and guys need not show chest hair
2. Don’t do shades indoors – not sure how this “trend” started but I assume some celebrity thought it was hip or cool to wear sunglasses indoors so the rest of society considered this to be acceptable. Unless a person has entered into thewitness protection plan and doesn’t want to risk being recognized, please don’t wear sunglasses indoors. It looks ridiculous and communicates “I have something to hide” or “I’m too cool to look you in the eye when speaking to you.”
3. Don’t gossip, point or poke fun at your colleagues or management team. This is a sure way to limit your ability to move up in the organization.
4. Don’t over indulge in alcohol or food – while this might seem obvious to many, for some reason, employees still do it. If you get drunk, you will be the person everyone talks about for year’s to come. And while the food buffet or passed hors de vours are yours for the taking, it’s not necessary to eat as if it’s your last meal. Ample portions are good, super size portions not good. One could be perceived as ill mannered or selfish by over indulging.
5. Don’t be an ingrate – companies don’t have to provide a holiday party but they do it to thank the employees for their hard work throughout the year so don’t complain about the venue, food, or the fact they didn’t have “premium” alcohol.
6. Don’t be inappropriate – while the event is festive in nature, it doesn’t mean you should discount the do’s and don’ts of appropriate office behavior. This means no ogling at co-workers and no overly outward displays of affection.
7. Don’t be ill mannered – thank the hosts for their generosity in throwing the event, don’t ignore the staff who are serving you instead thank them, introduce yourself to a colleague if you don’t know him or her and be sure to look as if you are enjoying yourself and not as if you want to make a clean get away when no one is watching.
8. Don’t not attend – we all have hectic schedules, particularly around this time of year but it’s considered disrespectful to not show up for your company party. Of course if you are out of town that’s an appropriate excuse but if you just don’t want to make the effort, that’s showing a lack of team spirit or lack of leadership.
Eat, drink and yes be merry but do it appropriately and in moderation!
Is it really a question of freedom of speech or just a matter of manners and intelligence?
Last week a woman took up issue with her boss and went to Facebook to air it. Allegedly, her disparaging comments got back to her supervisor and as a result, she was fired. Her employer says this is not the case and the reason she was fired was due to her failure to adhere to company policy which is “against employees discussing the company on the Internet, including social media sites.”
According to this article, the situation has “prompted a debate over whether or not these comments are protected speech under labor laws.” To me, the question isn’t whether they are protected or not, the question is whether or not, she was right or wrong in taking the risk to air her negative feelings in a public forum which happens to be a social media site her company has a policy about.
It seems so easy today for people to absolve themselves of accountability and hide against laws that weren’t intended to protect them from being ill mannered and irresponsible. Did this woman think it was right to talk negatively about her employer who is paying her paycheck each week? Did she not think of the ramifications of her actions? Did she not think of the risks involved and how she could be potentially lose her job? Let’s say she wasn’t fired from her job but her employer found out that she wrote those disparaging remarks on Facebook; did she think she would have a good working relationship with him? Would he be an advocate for her career? No he would not. If she thought through what she was doing (which many people don’t these days) she could have opted to speak with her supervisor in a professional manner and defend herself in person.
With a 10% unemployment rate (and higher in some states) why would someone be so cavalier about their job or career? I’m not suggesting that one should not report ill treatment in a workplace but I don’t know any employee who doesn’t have an issue or two about their supervisor or company.
What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.
Tips on how NOT to alienate your co-workers
Before I took the leap into the entrepreneurial world and started my own business, I worked in the fascinating world of technology. I say “fascinating” because there are truly very interesting, highly intellectual and well, “fascinating” people in this industry. Along with these characteristics comes a bit of eccentricity within each person and this was revealed to me on a daily basis in “cube world.”
There are all sorts of etiquette lessons on everything from appropriate dining to email communication to a hand shaking but rarely do I see anything written that highlights the etiquette of sitting in a cubicle. So, based on my profession as an image consultant and years of experience sitting in a cube, here are my do’s and don’ts to be a better cube mate. Would love to hear what your tips or pet peeves are? Comment here or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Don’t pump up the volume on your PC or laptop while listening to music, a webinar or funny video that was forwarded to you.
Do use headphones so that you are not distracting to those sitting around you. It’s important to understand that your co-workers might be on an important call conducting business.
2. Don’t come to the office looking unkempt, unclean or exuding an offensive odor.
Do pay attention to good hygiene. Hygiene is usually covered in the company dress code guidelines so if you are not sure how this applies to you, ask your human resource person for a copy. However, from my experience this can include but not limited to: opting to not shower, avoiding deodorant, mouthwash or appropriate laundering of apparel. Additionally, clipping of nails whether it’s fingernails or toenails is NOT acceptable. And yes, I did have a cube mate think it was OK to clip his toenails during office hours.
3. Don’t make unnecessary noises and by “noises” I am referring to passing gas, belching or plain old tapping on your desk.
As for the “do” here, I don’t think I need to elaborate.
4. Don’t put your feet up on the furniture (i.e., desk). If we weren’t allowed to do it at home, we shouldn’t expect to do it at the office. I personally never enjoyed viewing the dirty soles of my cube mate.
Do invest in a foot rest. Some individuals may need to keep their feet elevated during the day so this would be a good option.
5. Don’t remove your shoes. While other cultures might require shoes to be removed as soon as you enter a dwelling, here in the office world, this is a no-no.
Do keep your shoes on at all times. You might get an unexpected visit from a senior manager and while you scramble to put your shoes back on, you’ve already made a negative impression.
6. Don’t shout across the floor. I was taught that if I shouted to someone located in another room, this was considered bad manners so I wasn’t allowed to do it.
Do engage in conversation with your co-workers but opt to use a meeting space or common area that will allow you to speak more freely and openly.
7. Don’t lunch loudly. Often there isn’t enough time in the day to get work done let alone take an hour for lunch so it’s common for one to eat at their desk. If this is the case, please remember what your parents taught you which is; don’t eat with your mouth open.
Do try to eat your lunch in the designed cafeteria so that are you not distracting those around your cube. Additionally, if you opt to eat at your cube, remember to throw out your lunch packing in the cafeteria. There is nothing more nauseating than lunch remains after a few hours.
Just like casual Fridays have presented challenges and confusion to organizations and employees (mainly due to the loose interpretations of the word “casual”) office party attire and behavior is in the same league. While we all look forward to the holiday cheer, we often experience some angst when we have to try and figure out what is considered appropriate and what is not when attending the office holiday party. Here are a few guidelines to make the thought process a bit easier.
Women should avoid plunging necklines, sheer tops, and clingy inexpensive fabrics that are too form fitting. Instead, opt for a chic pant or skirt suit or dress that you can wear during office hours but easily transform to an evening look by wearing a bold necklace or chandelier earrings with a great clutch (these items can be kept in your day bag). Accessories are the best way to take someone from day to night. Hemlines for skirts or dresses should hit just at the knee or a touch below.
While men seem to have it a little easier when it comes to the selection of appropriate work attire, they must remember that the office holiday party is still a “work” function and not a weekend outing. If the company dress code is more casual, men should opt to dress up for the event and wear dark colored trousers paired with a button down shirt and laced up shoes. If the company dress code is suit and tie, then the thinking is taken out of the equation. However, men might want to opt for a more festive cuff link or tie to celebrate the occasion.
Whether you are a male or female, the number one “no no” to keep in mind when attending a holiday office party, is to not drink in excess and appear to be inebriated. This is definitely a career limiting move. The second “no no” is gossiping. Keep your comments and opinions to yourself. It is imperative to present your best self in all life’s endeavors and yes that means the holiday office party!