Good Manners Are a Career and Business Necessity

One rude person can upset the ambience of the entire office, disrupting teamwork and alienating customers.

learn more about Jacqueline Whitmore

By Jacqueline Whitmore

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Rude behavior is not only bad etiquette; it's bad for business. Unfortunately, it's a growing problem in the workplace.

In a University of Florida study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, lead author Trevor Foulk provided warning evidence that everyday impoliteness can spread throughout the work environment. "We are generally tolerant of these behaviors, but they're actually really harmful," he said. "Rudeness has an incredibly powerful negative effect on the workplace."

A routinely grumpy employee can bring down the energy of the whole office, while a socially-inept manager can put everyone on edge with inappropriate comments and attitudes that create tension. This bad behavior makes the workplace uncomfortable, if not downright intolerable. Rudeness can also lead to low performance, missed time, increased turnover and difficulty in recruiting as a company earns the reputation of a negative work environment.

So how can you nip rudeness in the bud?

1. Remember your etiquette.

Business etiquette is about proper communication. The purpose is to build positive relationships that enable a working environment to function in the most favorable way to all concerned: co-workers and customers alike. Foster an environment of respect and respectful interaction. Encourage your co-workers to praise, motivate and inspire each other instead of tearing each other down. Counterproductive distractions, drama and office politics can negatively affect your organization's profitability.

Related: If You Want That Customer, Mind Your Manners

2. Monitor nonverbal messaging

Incivility and rudeness frequently occurs during face-to-face communication because messages are delivered verbally as well as through tone of voice, body language and facial expressions. These non-verbal cues represent our internal perceptions, feelings and motives, which may be misinterpreted by the receiver, based on his or her own experiences and perceptions. If you experience an issue with a co-worker, call a meeting as soon as possible before any confusion or negative feelings start to harbor.

3. Beware of miscommunication.

How you say something is just as important as what you say. Effective communication is not achieved until the message sent is clearly received, so take a moment to echo back what you hear, especially if you don't understand what is being said. Ask for clarification before the intended message gets lost in translation and you jump to conclusions.

Related: Match the Right Communication Type to the Occasion

4. Read your messages before sending

How many times have you misinterpreted a text or email because you could not see the sender's face or read his tone? Try to deliver a complete, clear message instead of firing off a short, flip answer. Also, humor and sarcasm rarely convey well in electronic communications. Read and re-read your message for clarity and tone before sending it. If your message becomes too long or complicated, it may be time to pick up the phone or have a face-to-face conversation.

5. Think before you speak or react

We've all said or done something we later regretted, that's why it's important to slow down and consider how your own words and non-verbal cues may be received before delivering them. Choose words and actions that take the receiver's feelings and motives into consideration. Communication is a two-way street. Be sincere, ask meaningful questions, and give the other person a chance to share his or her opinions or ideas. If your communication is clear and genuine, others will be more apt to do business you.

6. Don't rely on technology

Texting and emailing are practical necessities, yet it is always wise to opt for social interaction whenever possible. While technology may improve the workplace in many ways and would seem to reduce rudeness, electronic messages can be misinterpreted and do not foster relationship building. Overuse of technology can also negatively impact our skills in social and emotional intelligence. We lose what we don't use. Encourage one-on-one social communication and group interaction, whenever possible.

Many organizations invest in training to enhance communication and team-building skills for both employees and management. Instill a culture of civility in your business and help your team practice business etiquette and positive communication skills. It will not only make the workplace more agreeable and pleasant, it will enhance your co-workers' ability to work harmoniously and get the promotion or contract they want.

Related: Professionalism: A Luxury for Corporate America, a Necessity for Entrepreneurs

Jacqueline Whitmore

Author, Business Etiquette Expert and Founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach

Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. She is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).

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