Why is communication so poor in my company?

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
What can I do about the poor communication in my company? We are a very traditional sales organization. It’s my perspective that management seems to withhold important information from employees, and employees are scared to communicate with managers. I usually find out things through the company grapevine, and that feels like the classic game of “telephone,” with my co-workers putting their own spin on the information I receive. I don’t want to step on toes, but better communication would make my job easier. Any advice?
Signed,
In the Dark

Dear Dark,
You are not alone. Studies show seven of 10 employees believe communication is poor between different levels of management at their companies. Middle managers in many organizations feel senior managers and employees would have a better understanding of each other if they only spoke directly with each other. Ironically, these middle managers usually get in the way of that communication. Add to that the fear factor – managers are human and may not feel comfortable communicating if they don’t know the answers or fear they will make a mistake.

You can’t change the people you work with, but you can polish your own skills. First, manage your expectation on what information should be provided to you by differentiating between “nice to know” and “need to know.” If something impacts the real work you do, your future or the future of the organization, you DO need to know.  In that case, reduce the water cooler discussion and go directly and respectfully to your manager and ask. Organize your thoughts before you have the conversation, be brief and to the point. Remember, good communicators listen more than they talk.

You may not be able to change your organization or the communication skills of the managers above you, but by modeling your own leadership communications skills, you may move the bar a bit.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Why don’t people RSVP?

Ms.MannersDear Readers:
I receive frequent emails from frustrated hosts who put thought and effort into planning lovely events and are stunned when they don’t receive responses to their invitations. This is problematic when planning food and beverage quantities, especially if the host has hired a caterer who charges by the number of guests who are expected to attend. Does that mean people are more impolite than they were in past years?

I choose to assume people don’t understand what the term R.S.V.P. means.  It stands for the French phrase, “répondez, s’il vous plaît,” which means “please reply.” If R.S.V.P. is written on an invitation, invited guests are expected to tell the host whether or not they plan to attend the party. If the invitation says, “Regrets only,” guests only need to respond if they cannot attend. So the next time you see R.S.V.P. on an invitation, please call your host and respond promptly, hopefully within a 48-hour time frame.

Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Right or left? Which way do you pass food at the table?

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
This may sound like a silly question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. In which direction are we supposed to pass food? My grandmother always taught us to pass to the left, but I have a friend who insists we should pass to the right. Which way is the right way?
Signed,
Directionally Impaired Diner 

Dear Directionally Impaired,
As a guest at any table, the important thing to remember is to keep all food going in the same direction at the beginning of a meal. The “which-way-to-pass rule” is only meant to provide some type of order and avoid having a guest end up with two dishes at once. Old etiquette books taught us to pass to the left, but today we are taught to pass counter-clockwise to the right. This is because most people are right-handed. (Sorry, left-handed readers.) Also a guest of honor is seated to the right of the host, and if the meal is served family-style, the host always offers the first platter to the guest of honor.

If you need a food item to be passed to you after the initial pass, simply ask the person closest to the platter.  Second helpings may be passed in whatever direction is most convenient and practical – right, left or even across the table.

Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

The “poop” on texting on the toilet

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corp. Manners,
It seems that every time I go into the bathroom now, someone in the other stall is texting on a cell phone (or on occasion TALKING!) I find this disturbing and unsanitary, to say the least. Aren’t bathrooms considered part of the workplace environment where cell phones are not allowed?
Signed,
Potty in Peace 

Dear Potty,
A recent study says that 75 percent of Americans admit to using their smartphones while on the toilet. In a survey of of 1,000 people, the marketing agency 11mark found toilet texting, shopping or surfing the Web is particularly popular among 28 to 35-years-old, with a reported 91 percent of that age group admitting to the habit. Among those 65 and older, however, only 47 percent admitted to using their mobile devices on the toilet.

Yes, toilet texters are incredibly annoying. (Can you imagine being on the other end of THOSE calls?) But we can’t control other people’s behavior, only our own. Mind your own (toilet) manners. Think kind thoughts as you go about your own (toilet) business. And remember, earplugs cover a multitude of sins.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2014.

 

Holiday decor: How much is TOO MUCH at work?

Ms.MannersHello Ms. Corporate Manners,
Employees at our company have recently been told to cease all holiday decorating.  I’m very sad about this because I think our company is becoming so impersonal. Customers love it when we decorate or dress up for holidays, and it makes for a very enjoyable and happy work environment. Shouldn’t the customers and employees have a say in this? 
Signed, 
Holiday Blues

Dear Upset,
Many people (except Scrooge) love holidays, but your bosses also are responsible for maintaining a certain professionalism in the office. Going along with management can be YOUR holiday gift. I imagine your customers appreciate your caring and fun spirit as much or more than the decorations.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Related articles

When is it too tight at work?

Dear Ms Corporate Manners,
My fellow employee could use a lesson in clothing size. The person isn’t small, but she’s not large either. She has a tendency to wear clothes that are skin tight (pants and shirts), and they show every curve on her body. In fact, this week she wore pants that looked like it could cut her in half around the waist and a top that showed just how tight the waist was. A few customers have brought this up as well. We’re not sure how to bring up the dress code without it being obviously directed toward this person. Please help!!!
Sincerely,
Next Size Up

Dear Next Size Up,
Your human resource manager should be able to discuss this delicate issue with the employee, especially since customers have commented on it. A too-tight look is never flattering and usually too revealing. There are very few legitimate jobs where wearing clingy clothing is a good career move, and your workplace is not one of them.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Dear Ms. Manners,
My coworker sometimes wears clothes that are way too tight. This is especially noticeable when she wears an outfit with buttons on it. This person is very committed to her job and wants to advance in the company. I am trying to find a way to approach her without hurting her feelings. Please help!
Signed,
Sensitive Subject

Dear Sensitive,
It’s nice that you want to help, but if you aren’t a very close friend or her manager, please don’t. Since this is a sensitive subject, so it might be wise to keep your opinion to yourself this time.
Thanks,
Ms. Corporate Manners

P.S. It would be a kindness to compliment your coworker when she wears outfits that have a more flattering fit.

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Should you text late at night?

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
What is the etiquette for hours that people text you? I think that no one should text after 9 p.m., since texting is the same as a phone call. Thoughts?
Thanks,
Need My Sleep

Dear Sleep-Deprived,
You are absolutely right. In business, it’s polite to text during “calling hours,” which usually are 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. In business, only text in two situations – first, if your colleague specifically requests text messages as his or her preferred form of communication, and second, to respond to a message sent to you.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Tattoos and piercings in the workplace

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners:
What is the etiquette on tattoos and facial, tongue and ear piercings? I thought tattoos should not be seen in the workplace, but I’m seeing more and more of them exposed. And I thought earrings were the only piercings allowed, and only for women. What do you think? 

Signed, 
Just Wondering 

Dear Wondering,
Although about one in five American adults sport at least one tattoo, opinions on its appropriateness in the workplace often vary according with age. A 2012 survey by Captivate, a digital media firm, found that participants over the age of 50 were far more likely to find tattoos distracting than those in the 35-49 age range. I HATE most tattoos and body piercings (except ears) and prefer body ink be concealed under clothing in the workplace. That said, I’m over 50 and come from a conservative office environment. Many companies don’t want to limit piercings and tattoos because it would impact their ability to recruit the current generation.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

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Elevator etiquette on a cell phone

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
Can you talk about the etiquette of using cell phones in elevators?
Signed,
Fed Up in Chattanooga

Dear Fed Up,
When using your cell phone, be aware of your surroundings and be considerate of others. In a public space like an elevator, it’s just plain rude to yak loudly on your cell. If you have to take a call in the middle of a conversation or meeting, apologize, step out of the room, and make it quick. And that goes for texting, too.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

More cell phone etiquette

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners,
Our workplace has a “no cell phones at work” policy. The problem is that some people ignore that policy. We work with the public, and one of my co-workers almost always keeps her cell phone on, and it rings while we are helping clients. She answers the phone and then moves to an area where people can’t see her, but trust me, they can definitely still hear her. Besides being loud, she makes our clients have to wait while she carries on these “private” conversations. Our bosses are aware of this and yet it still continues to happen. I just feel bad for our clients who are getting less than professional service. And also for the employees who are picking up the slack. Is there anything we can do?
Signed,
Hoping for Help

Dear Hoping,
Overuse in public is inconsiderate and it’s best to turn cell phones off at the office, especially during meetings. If you work with a cell-phone user who deliberately ignores the rules and it’s impacting your customer service, you should talk to your co-worker, who may not realize how loud her calls are.  If that doesn’t work, talk with your manager or human resources representative about the problem.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

What to wear on casual Fridays?

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
When is it appropriate to wear blue jeans to work? What does business casual mean? Also, when is it proper to wear sundresses to work?
Thanks.
Prim and Proper in Memphis

Dear Prim and Proper,
When dressing for work, don’t dress for who you are but for who you want to be. That means dressing like the people do at the top of the ladder.  Business casual is a more relaxed look, but we ALWAYS need to project a professional image for our customers and co-workers. On casual Fridays and other times, study what the company leaders wear and use common sense.   Ladies, no mini-skirts, and no bare midriffs; clothing that reveals too much cleavage, too much back, too much shoulder or too much leg is not right for work.  If you wear a sundress, make sure it’s modest, and wear a light jacket or sweater to cover up in the office. Casual pants are fine for men and women, but not blue jeans. Men, you can forgo the tie, and wear a nice button down shirt with a sports jacket. No blue jeans, sweatpants, exercise pants or t-shirts displaying your alma mater’s logo.  On casual days, wear conservative athletic or walking shoes, loafers, boots, flats and leather deck-type shoes.  Athletic shoes, thongs, flip-flops and slippers are no-no’s. Given climate and fashion trends, we’re open to open-toed shoes for women, but please – if you show it to us be sure we want to see it.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

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