Bad manners: 10 commandments to guarantee a rude awakening

Having experienced a particularly unpleasant journey on the Tube one hot and sticky morning, I complained to a friend, who happens to be the HR director at British Transport Police. We decided to start a campaign to bring good manners back to the transport system.

We listed a few of our top complaints. These included banning those who:

  • eat hot smelly food on the tube

  • need to invest in a good deodorant

  • pretend to be absorbed in a book, but are really ignoring someone who needs a seat

  • don’t know or don’t care that you are forced to share their musical tastes.

Are manners too old-fashioned a concept or an essential part of the make-up of the modern business person? We take the latter view. Without the exercise and the model of good manners in the office, how can we possibly set the tone for an organisation that will treat its customers well?

Here are our 10 commandments for good manners in the business environment:

Thou shalt say thank you

This is the key to developing the right ethos, but only do this for good results. You want the right behaviours repeated. Send thank-you notes or ring someone to express your gratitude.

Thou shalt pay attention

We know there could be someone more interesting over their shoulder, but it would be rude to let your gaze drift around the room. Concentrate on keeping eye contact.

Thou shalt listen

Particularly before speaking. Respect for others is a prerequisite of good manners and there is nothing worse than someone who does not listen. Listening is vital if we want our organisation to listen to its customers.

Thou shalt be punctual

Appreciate the value of time – yours and others’. If you must be late, call first – but don’t make a habit of it.

Thou shalt not act like a pig at events

Don’t speak with your mouth full, pick your ears with your car keys or belch loudly with pride. Inebriated attempts to mate with junior staff at the annual bash are a no-no.

Thou shalt not whinge

Deal with your complaints with others directly and promptly. Be assertive, but do not whine. You will make your colleagues want to poke their eyes out if you’re a constant moaning Minnie.

Thou shalt not be interrupted

Do not allow one-to-one meetings to be interrupted by texts, glances at your BlackBerry, phone calls or people putting their heads round the door to say hello. You will irritate your people, who will feel disrespected by your rudeness.

Thou shalt not grab all the perks

Just because you are the more senior person doesn’t mean you deserve the business trip to a sunny place, or the chance to shine at the board meeting. Let your staff know the good times too. Sharing is good for you.

Thou shalt not tolerate bad manners

Without the sense that there are some rules, there cannot be agreement about decent behaviour. We all need to take responsibility for our own behaviour and that of our employees, and that means challenges when the rules are breached.

Thou shalt lead by example

If you are attempting to bring good manners into your workplace, you must first do what you ask of your employees, by:

  • improving the image of your business

  • strengthening working relationships

  • developing employee confidence and effectiveness

  • enhancing communications with clients and customers

  • increasing productivity.

The added bonus is that the workplace becomes a more pleasant place to be.

Now, back to plans to sort out my fellow Tube travellers.

By Angela O’Connor, chief people officer, National Policing Improvement Agency

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Any bad manners in your workplace that you can’t tolerate? E-mail [email protected]

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