25 Jan On wimpy handshakes and other business etiquette pet peeves
Editor’s note: Contemporary Working, WTN’s newest column, is actually a blog on the Manpower Web site, and it’s designed to guide readers on their journey through the changing world of work. Readers will find tips, tools, and information on topics as diverse as the aging workforce, working women, professional etiquette, generational diversity, the talent crunch, and more.
These things make me crazy:
• Men who shake women’s hands like a limp fish. Men take note: women do not need a finger-tip shake – we want a firm palm-to-palm shake just like you do.
• People who call me on their speaker phone when it’s a one-on-one conversation. I totally get the fabulous convenience of speaker phones when groups are talking. But when you call me to talk, please pick up the receiver. If you don’t, you sound pretentious and I’m insulted.
• People who finish my sentences for me. You can’t read my mind and when you interrupt, you appear inconsiderate and impatient.
What are your top three pet peeves?
Does gender matter?
When I was growing up (in the 50s), it was unusual for a woman to shake hands. I rarely saw women get up when a guest walked into a room or joined a table, and women actually enjoyed and appreciated having doors opened and chairs pulled out for them.
Things have changed!
Gender makes little difference anymore. Everyone shakes hands. Everyone should stand when a guest enters a room or joins a table. And while I still enjoy having doors opened and chairs positioned for me, it is not the norm. I counted today and it was 50/50. I held doors for men half the time, and men held doors for me the other half. And no matter who you are, please don’t forget to say “thank you.”
What else has equalized in the etiquette arena?
I’m sure you’ve heard about those companies that ban e-mail on certain days of the week. The hope is the ban will encourage face-to-face or, at least, telephone conversations.
I don’t want to generalize too much, but depending on your age, you would either welcome that ban as relief from the seemingly never-ending messages or dread it, feeling as if you’re giving up food and water. But whichever way you might feel about ubiquitous email, doing without could help us communicate more effectively.
According to Daniel Goleman at The New York Times, researchers have discovered a flaw in our brains that affects the way we react to what we read on a computer screen. The good can sound neutral, the neutral can appear negative and the negative can seem downright hateful.
So pick one: word your e-mails very carefully to avoid misunderstandings OR get up from your desk and have a real conversation with your co-worker.
How do you feel about e-mail?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s the number of Americans who quit their jobs every day. That gets me thinking about what is important to us at work because if we’re not getting what’s important, we may be among the 83,000 who quit each day.
It won’t surprise you to know that what’s important is different among the generations. I stress different. Not bad, just different!
• If you’re over 63 and part of the WWII generation, you work hard, respect authority, follow the rules and you feel that you’ve paid your dues. You are loyal to your employer and in your eyes, the customer is always right.
• If you’re a Baby Boomer, you’ve (we’ve) worked hard and long — some may accuse you of being a workaholic. You’re competitive and you want to be respected and rewarded.
• Gen Xers, age 30 to 45, work smart, not hard — but that’s not a criticism because you get the job done. You work to live, you don’t want to be micro-managed, you want to be thanked (often) and you want all the Boomers and WWIIers to lighten up.
• Finally, if you’re a GenYer, born after 1978, you want important and interesting work. You want goals and direction — and a mentor rather than a manager. Finally, and this is a lesson we should all learn, you want to have fun.
Message to employers: Understand what the different generations want and work hard to give it to them. Be creative!
Another message to employers: Since we’re all working together, help your employees understand and embrace the different generations.
Message to the members of the different generations: Don’t judge your co-workers just because they want different things. Respect the differences and learn from each other.
What generational diversity issues do you face at work?
I heard somewhere that 16 million Americans have elder-care issues and my hunch is that the vast majority of them are Baby Boomers like me. Our ability to care for aging parents while doing all of the other things our busy lives require is just one more compelling reason why workplace flexibility is more important than ever before.
What kinds of workplace flexibility would make your life easier?
Another column by Melanie Holmes
• Melanie Holmes: She’s baaack! Avoiding the etiquette pitfalls of Omarosa
This article previously appeared on the Manpower Web site and was reprinted with its permission.
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