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Business Etiquette Week Prompts Positive Conversation

The Protocol School of Washington (www.psow.edu) has declared June 4-10 National Business Etiquette Week with a theme of “Toxic Workplaces: How to Resurrect Civility in Business.”  Bravo to them because we could all use a reminder about now. Incivility is rampant. It is an insidious poison that degrades our relationships with individuals and nations, and erodes our own happiness. Incivility breeds incivility but the good news is that civility is contagious and far less stressful than living in a constant state of self-absorbed, aggressive snark.

National Business Etiquette Week and its theme prompted a healthy discussion in the university events office, not only because we are the keepers of campus protocol, but we are often the face of the university to alumni, donors, and our community. We are expected to be considerate, after all, that is our job. The flip side is that we are also the recipients of rude behavior from entitled guests who fail to r.s.v.p., announce dietary restrictions as meals are being served, demand to know why arrangements aren’t tailored to their personal preferences, arrive late, show up to adult occasions with children in tow, or worst of all, r.s.v.p. and then don’t show up at all. Through it all, we must maintain composure and treat everyone with unfailing politeness. It’s not always easy. Our conversation led to the consensus that business etiquette boils down to showing respect for others (even when we disagree with what they do or say) and treating them the way we would like to be treated. It’s thinking more about the other person than ourselves.  We created lists of the behaviors we don’t like, and the positive behaviors that we do like. Thinking about business etiquette helped us re-focus on what we can do to make our world more respectful. I hope you and your staff will take the time this week to do the same.

Here is our list of every day ways we can be part of the solution.

We pledge to respect others by:

  1. Affirming that race, religion, politics, and sexual orientation have no bearing on our ability to be polite. Everyone has value as a person.
  2. Being on time. Doing so shows respect for colleagues and guests.
  3. Being prepared for meetings by having the items we have been assigned completed or ready for discussion and all needed materials with us.
  4. Returning all messages promptly, including e-mails.
  5. Keeping our inboxes clean. (Nothing says “disorganized” or is more frustrating than hearing a “this inbox is full and cannot accept messages” recording on cell or office telephones.)
  6. Eschewing foul language, especially the once taboo but now ubiquitous “f-bomb.”
  7. Dressing professionally which means wearing clothes and accessories that are appropriate for the office, modest in styling and that cover cleavage, tattoos, toes, and upper arms. For men, it means shirts with collars and trousers on a casual day, coat and tie otherwise.
  8. Keeping the office kitchenette and break room tidy. No dishes in the sink, litter or spills left behind on surfaces or in the microwave, and only fresh food stored in the refrigerator.
  9. Keeping private life private by not talking about personal problems in the office or online.
  10. Treating coworkers with a cheerful attitude and a sincere willingness to help accomplish goals.

 

 

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Polish Your Formal Meeting Manners

Advancement professionals are often asked to make presentations or represent university leadership at formal meetings such as those conducted by the school’s board of trustees, alumni or foundation boards, community non-profit organizations, or local government. Presenting yourself and your school with polished meeting manners goes a long way toward establishing credibility. Here’s how to project a professional image when you are attending a meeting.

Arrive on time in business attire (suits for both men and women), prepared for the topics to be discussed. Review any background materials, including minutes of the previous meeting, that were distributed in advance. Familiarize yourself with the names of board members. If you are making remarks or giving a presentation, plan and rehearse what you will say. Have your papers and relevant materials neatly organized in a folio so you don’t have to dig for them. It is considerate to give your business card to the meeting secretary so that your name and title can be accurately recorded in the minutes.

If you are a guest or newcomer to the group, make your presence known by introducing yourself to the meeting chairperson or planner. He or she should indicate where you are to sit. If not, ask before taking a seat. Place your computer bag, tote, or purse on the floor beside your chair (never on the meeting table).  Silence your cell phone and put it out of sight. Peruse the agenda so that you know when it will be your turn to speak. Introduce yourself to others and make light conversation with the people seated beside you until the meeting begins. Don’t arrive with a to-go cup of coffee, water bottle, or food in hand. Doing so lacks polish and hints that you don’t trust your host to offer refreshments.

If you are making a presentation that requires audio visual equipment, arrive early so that you have time to test it. Avoid computer compatibility problems by bringing your own laptop, connector cables, and your own remote. Always have a copy of your show on a thumb drive not only as a backup, but so that it can be given to the AV techs in the event all shows are being run from a house computer. Test all Internet or Wi-Fi connections if they are essential to your show. Remember that your computer may have to be signed-on to a secure network in advance.

When it is your turn to speak, take your tablet, laptop, or notes to the podium. If you’re using written notes, carry them in an attractive portfolio. Don’t place them on the podium in advance because other speakers may need room to spread out their things and you run the risk of them being accidentally being picked up by another speaker when he or she leaves the lectern. Respect others by confining your remarks to the amount of time you have been assigned.

During the meeting, keep attention focused on the purpose at hand by refraining from texting, checking e-mail, or doodling.

If no refreshments are offered, don’t ask for them. When beverages are served in cans, pour the contents into a glass before drinking. Keep your seat during the meeting and keep your place at the meeting table free from litter. Place dirty cups and trash on a side table (if one has been provided) during an appropriate break in the proceedings.

Don’t interrupt others or comment on everything that is said. Organize your thoughts before speaking. If you disagree with something that has been said, do so politely and avoid credibility-damaging outbursts of anger.

When the meeting ends, thank the chairperson before you leave. Follow up promptly on promises or assignments.

 

 

 

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Show Appreciation, Write A Thank You Note

 

Saying thanks and showing appreciation to our colleagues is one of the most powerful motivators in the work place. It’s also one of the most under used. I like to say “thank you” throughout the school year because it makes me feel good and it helps keep spirits up as we march through one event after another. If you haven’t been doing so, there is an old saying that it is never too late to say thanks. The academic year-end is a perfect time to express your gratitude.

While there are many sources suggesting ways to thank employees or colleagues ranging from snacks to gift cards, I find one of the most effective is to give the rarest of items–a hand-written thank you note. A personal note is just that–it communicates to the recipient that you noticed and appreciated his or her contributions and because it is in your own handwriting, it conveys your message in a way no emoji-sprinkled text, commercially produced thank you card or box of bagels left at the office coffee maker can ever rival.

A recent study on employee engagement cited by the Huffington Post (http://Huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/19/appreciation) found that 80 percent of employees are motivated to work harder and remain more loyal when the boss shows appreciation for their work. But you don’t have to be the boss to send a thank-you note. No event planner can be successful without the hard work of others and recognizing them is not only appreciated, it can pay major dividends going forward.

I send a blizzard of thank you notes following events to everyone from the featured speaker to the cleaning staff (remember your administrative assistant, too). Occasionally, I even send a note to the president’s spouse expressing thanks for her graciousness after we have invaded her home, the university’s official residence, with gear, caterers, and hundreds of guests.  I also send thanks to the university police department for their help with  security, parking, and crowd control.

I address each person personally and mention specifics of what they did to help make our efforts a success. Over the years this habit has helped engender willing cooperation when I ask people to go above and beyond their everyday tasks. Recently, a theater professor who often teams up with our events staff told me that when he moved offices he found a trove of old thank you notes I had sent. I was very touched that he had saved them.

We all crave thanks and recognition, yet it is a scarce commodity in the work place. People who say thank you stand out. I once worked for a president who thanked his staff with notes, flowers, or small gifts when a job was particularly well-done. In the back of our minds, all of us were working to earn one of those special recognitions every time we undertook a new project. Showing appreciation conveys respect and builds loyalty and trust because it affirms that someone noticed and valued our efforts.

Writing thank you notes is not a long, complicated, or odious task. Simply make a list of people and take pen in hand. Use a fold-over note card, either one produced by your school or company or purchase your own from a stationary store. (Crane and Co. (http://www.crane.com) is my favorite. An American paper manufacturer since 1770, the company produces fine 100% cotton papers that are classic in styling and noted for understated elegance.)

Open the card and writing only on the bottom half, address the person, mention the occasion and something specific about his or her contribution. If possible, use the person’s name again in the body of your message and then say “thank you.” You’re done! Mail as soon as possible after the occasion. You will make someone’s day and you will feel good, too.