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Technology Need Not Eliminate Common Courtesy

by Alf Nucifora

It seems that everywhere we turn we are confronted by incivility, bad manners and in-your-face aggressiveness. The classic ________This! attitude is rampant in our TV advertising; it's migrated to sports (XFL); and it shows up in the way we treat each other in business. Yet there can be no forgetting that civility and good manners are still the important lubricants that make for good business relationships and social intercourse.

My life today is made up of a diet of countless business meetings interspersed with life-sapping business travel. In the course of that experience, I'm noticing certain, repetitive patterns of behavior that are beginning to grate on the nerves, all committed by boors and buffoons who should know better. It's time to call these philistines to task. It's time to reprise the rules of civilized business behavior.

Using Speakerphones

Don't use a speakerphone if you're the only person in the room. Speakerphones were meant for group interaction. At a minimum, it's discourteous to work at your desk while I'm trying to have a conversation with you. It's also arrogant in the extreme and an implied power play to boot.

Conference Calls and Computers

It seems that every time I'm on a conference call there's at least one party clearing his e-mail. How can I tell? He becomes silent, divorced from the conversation and is often trapped by a sudden question thrown his way. If the discussion is that boring and uninteresting, don't join the call. You're adding nothing to it as it is.

Cell Phones and Meetings

As a professional speaker who gives more than 100 speeches a year, I have yet to address a group where a cell phone has not gone off at least once, in many instances, multiple times, in spite of a pre-meeting plea to turn the phones off. This singular piece of behavior typifies the crass businessperson at his/her worst…selfish, uncaring and obsessed with a sense of self-importance. Leaving one's cell phone on in a meeting is akin to picking one's nose in public or other equally offensive behavior.

No Bellowing Please

You see them at the airports, the self-important sales types who insist upon sharing their latest business moves (normally involving the execution of their middle-management power) with everyone within a mile radius. You don't have to shout to be heard! We know you're important. Truthfully, we'd be more impressed if you'd keep it down to a dull roar.

On Time Starts

There are those who flaunt their authority by always showing up late. It's their way of telling us how busy they are, how vital they are to the cogs of commerce, how pressured must their lives be. Given their importance to mankind, it's only reasonable to expect that everyone else should await their every move. Listen, punctuality is still important. Unless you own the company or rule the world, be on time like everyone else. It's nothing more than common courtesy.

Presentation Do's and Don'ts

On the subject of meetings, I can't understand why it's so hard to introduce a speaker. It's a simple manner of following the script. For heaven's sake, learn how to pronounce the speaker's name, list the key biographical details, keep it short and say it as if it were an act of love and not a chore to be begrudged. And as for the speakers, now that you've become addicted to PowerPoint presentations learn how to design and use them for maximum impact and effect. The PowerPoint presentation is fast becoming an alternative to Sominex.

Shorter Phone Menus

It's getting out of control, the constant number dialing and lengthened response menus that one encounters when calling corporate America. Getting through the menu maze requires an engineering degree, a compass and the patience of Job. Don't companies realize how angry we, the callers, are becoming at this cavalier treatment? I understand the need for cost savings, but it's time to shorten those menus before the customer revolts. I yearn for the days when companies instituted customer service improvement practices because they actually wanted to improve customer service rather than save a buck by firing another lowly paid receptionist or call agent.

More Quiet Zones

Hartsfield Airport, in my hometown, Atlanta, is the worst with blaring CNN monitors, bleating golf carts, PA announcements bellowed in full voice all contributing to a decibel level guaranteed to induce deafness. Doesn't anyone appreciate silence anymore? A quiet moment to contemplate or read? It's going to be one of the next consumer battlegrounds and the smart marketer will realize that not every environment has to be filled with nauseous Musak or strident ambient noise.

No More Spam

My e-mail count has gone up by 30% in the last three months, much of it unsolicited sales spiels. This is not acceptable. My e-mail address is for legitimate correspondence. I encourage you to contact me with a personal communication, even if it's only to say Hi. But don't put me on an impersonal mass mailing list. You don't have my permission to do so. If you want it, ask for it… in advance.

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