“Show Notes”

In this episode of the Beyond Money podcast, founder Maureen O’Callaghan discusses an often overlooked but essential aspect of doing business – good manners. Expect insights into how courtesy, or the lack of it, can impact the work environment, team morale, and productivity, and become part of the business culture, as well as how managers can encourage good manners in the workplace.

“Show Transcription”

Hello, I’m Maureen O’Callaghan, founder of Beyond Money, a business that aims to change the way people do business by teaching them the art of doing business beyond money. In this series of podcasts, I’m going to cover some key themes that will help business owners thrive in work and in life, do some good, and discover that their purpose goes way beyond money. On today’s episode, I’d like to talk about good manners. Do manners matter at work? Is it really expected that you and others are polite all the time, even when you’re busy or under pressure? Let me ask you this; how does it feel when someone interrupts you in conversation or cuts you off in a meeting? Or when someone is persistently late for meetings and keeps you waiting? I could add many more examples to the list of what is considered bad manners. In isolation, discourteous behaviour may seem like just an annoyance, but over time, it creates an unhealthy working environment and damages team morale, motivation, and productivity. For example, what you consider to be ‘getting to the point’ or ‘telling it as it is’ can come across as rudeness. Do that to a good employee one too many times and they won’t want to stay. Or if your team sees you behaving like that, they’ll think it’s acceptable, and before you know it, it becomes part of your business culture. So why do people behave like this at work when they might think twice about behaving this way outside of the office? I think the main reason is that they get so embroiled in their own work and what they have to do.  I don’t think it is intentional.  Sometimes it’s easy to get so involved in what you are doing that you forget to think about how your words and actions impact on others. This is why when I am focused on a major piece of work like writing a funding bid or analysing data, I have a “do not disturb” sign on my office door and my phone is switched off, because I know from experience that I am not always as well mannered as I should be when my work flow is interrupted. That is my way of managing myself and as a manager, you can develop that self-awareness as well as actively encouraging good manners in your business. The most important way to encourage good manners is to lead by example. Model good manners and show that you will not tolerate bad manners by taking staff aside when they exhibit them. You also have to be clear and specific about what behaviours you expect and what is unacceptable. The next thing to think about is making sure you separate manners from performance. Unless an employee’s lack of courtesy is impacting on their performance, treat it as a separate issue. That said, you can raise the manners issue in a performance review and talk about how rudeness or inconsiderate behaviour impacts on the whole team. It might come to light that there is a root cause for someone’s lack of courtesy. Perhaps something is going on at home or they are struggling with their workload. As a manager, it’s your job to try and get to the bottom of it. One thing to note is that someone’s perceived bad manners could be down to cultural differences; what is considered rude in one culture is acceptable in another. And of course, if you want to encourage good manners in your business, one often overlooked way of doing so is recognising people for being polite. Thank someone for turning off their phone before your meeting starts or for waiting until you’ve finished speaking before they offer their thoughts. So that’s how to encourage good manners, what about stamping out bad manners? Imagine this scenario. An employee brings a snack and their lunch to work every day and puts it in the fridge in the communal staff kitchen. Then the odd thing starts to go missing. First it’s just a yoghurt so they don’t say anything. Then it’s a drink, their fruit, or maybe even half of their sandwich. Now they’ve had enough so they come to you about it. What do you do? Do you dismiss it as a trivial thing that you don’t really have time to deal with? Or do you demonstrate empathy and listen, understanding that they are upset that someone has taken their food without asking? Hopefully, you would do the latter. As a manager, it’s your job to create a workplace culture where there is open and honest communication, and people feel comfortable voicing their concerns. When the person coming to you tells you about their food going missing from the fridge, you ultimately have to see if for what it is; poor and inconsiderate behaviour from a member of your team that needs to be dealt with. Your plan of action to deal with poor behaviour should involve setting out your expectations. This means clearly defining what is not acceptable in terms of workplace behaviour. Be clear on your expectation that people will take responsibility for their actions, think about the impact of what they say or do on other people, and the workplace in general, and show respect and concern for others. The aim is encouraging everyone to ask themselves “how would the other person like to be treated in this situation?” This can go a long way. You can probably rattle off a list of situations where someone hasn’t considered you and has exhibited bad manners. I know I can. People interrupting me when I am speaking. Invading my personal space. Being on their mobile when they are with me. Being late for meetings, which I suppose is a big one for me. I find that I just don’t end up having any kind of relationship with people who behave like this towards me. This is mainly because considering others is an important value of mine. I like to demonstrate that I am taking someone’s feelings into account and being respectful, as well as showing people how I want to be treated and encouraging them to treat me in the same way. Go online and you’ll find a lot of articles suggesting we are less well-mannered as a society now. They blame the isolation of Covid, the stress of modern life, and the increase in solely digital communication. While there’s an element of truth in this, it just takes one person to treat another with respect and kindness to make a difference. And you can start with your workplace. I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and you’re inspired to look at whether good manners reign in your workplace and where things could be improved so you and your team can reap the benefits. Tune in for the next episode of the Beyond Money podcast which will look at negative thinking and how you can break the habit.