Everyone is busy, busy, busy these days. That means we’re all trying work faster and get more done quicker – and, increasingly, we’re using technology to make our work more efficient and better. And in many ways, we’re succeeding.
The advances and advantages of technology provide the capacity and resources for us to do more – exponentially. We have platforms for everything, and we’re used to a shorthand way of communicating via email, social media and gchats. But, with all this technology, are we losing some non-tech etiquette that shouldn’t be lost?
Perhaps it’s because I work in PR, which is built on relationships and connections, or perhaps it’s because I’m getting older and I still remember “the way it used to be,” but I submit that there are some old-school courtesies that we need to keep in our digital culture. No matter how tech-savvy we get, these stand-bys should remain part of how we conduct business.
Like with a pen – on notes and stuff. Thank you notes, letters, cards – even a post-it note on someone’s desk – it makes a difference to receive something handwritten versus the hundreds of emails we see every day. It will stand out and be memorable. It only takes 3 minutes to jot a note that will bring a smile to someone’s face.
Even though office environments are more open now, with cubicles or glass walls, it’s still nice to knock before you walk in and potentially interrupt someone. The person you want to speak with may be knee-deep in a project or just in the middle of a line of thought that is different than the wavelength you’re on. A small knock gives him that little bit of time to come to a stopping place and empowers him to make the decision to change gears.
I know we’re in a culture of being casual – and goodness knows, I enjoy getting to wear jeans to work some days – but the phrase “dress to impress” exists for a reason. It’s good to dress a little above your position; it helps people see you as ready for the next step in the ladder.
Figure out a way to remember people’s names – there are many methods out there – and use those names in your conversations. Also, gain an understanding of what that person does – not just so that you can maybe sell to them – but so you can have a meaningful conversation. Ask questions to learn more. Then, you can…
And I don’t mean in social media. Spend quality time with people. Don’t just talk to people about work stuff – quickly delegating tasks or running through a meeting agenda. (And I’m talking to myself here.) Sometimes that’s how we need to work, yes. But it’s also good to intentionally take time to just see how a person is doing. Get to know her as a person, not just a worker. Learn about her family, dreams, pain points. And look her in the eye while you talk. You’ll end up with information that will help you better know how to work together, and it will make that work more enjoyable for both of you.
Return phone calls and emails quickly – even if it’s just to say that you’ll get back to them later with more information. Then, make a note to do what you said you would do by the promised date. It helps people know they can count on you.
Give everyone your respect – not just your colleagues or elders, but also subordinates. That includes respecting personal space and preferences, which may be different from your own. Show up to meetings on time – or early – and be prepared. Also, respect your office environment and keep it clean.
It can be easy to think that someone else will think just like we do. (That is certainly a fault of mine!) But, that’s not always the case. It’s important to take time to consider other potential points of view. Then, when you’re in a meeting or on a phone call with someone else, you can better speak in his language and better address his concerns and needs.
Remind yourself to smile every so often. Look excited to talk to others and make them feel important.
“Considering” can also include censoring yourself somewhat. For example, if you like to use cusswords, that doesn’t mean that the person across the table from you wants to hear them. It can be better to not use them at all than to offend someone.
Tell others if they are doing a good job, and express what you value or how their work helps the company. Don’t criticize or judge if things are done differently then you would have done them. Be grateful they were done, and encourage the person to do more things. They will naturally want to grow and improve to continue winning your favor.
Sounds easy, right? Yet, it’s common to see furrowed brows and weird faces while someone is thinking or looking at a computer. (I know I’m guilty of that!) So, remind yourself to smile every so often. Look excited to talk to others and make them feel important.
These old-school courtesies are all things I’m trying to do myself. And I think I’m better for it. What other ones should we keep around in our digital times?