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Say Goodbye To Boorish Business Behavior

by Alf Nucifora

It seems that everywhere we turn we are confronted by incivility, bad manners and in-your-face aggressiveness. This attitude is rampant in our advertising and entertainment; it's omnipresent in our sports; 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 are for enabling group interaction. It's discourteous to work at your desk while I'm trying to have a conversation with you. Aside from the display of arrogance, it's also 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 50 + speeches a year, I rarely address a group where a cell phone has not rung at least once, in spite of a pre-meeting plea to turn phones off. This singular piece of behavior typifies the crass businessperson at his/her worst…forgetful, uncaring and/or obsessed with a sense of self-importance. Allowing one's cell phone to ring in a meeting is akin to picking one's nose in public.

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 their lives must 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.

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 matter of following the script. 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 interest rather than 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 produce 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 second has to be filled with nauseous Musak or strident ambient noise.

Batten down the Blackberry

Finally, the most offensive of all, the obsessive Blackberry user who is incapable of more than fifteen minutes of undivided attention before the device, with the siren pull of a crack pipe, appears under the desk or table, thumbs in the throes of a typing frenzy. Is life so bereft of purpose that one must be at the constant beck and call of messengers who, for the most part, choose to interrupt us about matters, which for the most part, are either inconsequential or worthy of lower response priority? A warning to Blackberry fanatics…when you're in my company, turn it off. Nothing is more important than the communication that is about to take place between us. Nothing! Period!

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