Typically, etiquette advice falls into one of two categories. The first is advice a person already knows, such as “shake hands when you meet someone.” By hearing it again and revisiting it, the advice becomes top-of-mind. Reminding people of what they already know reinforces that what they think is the right way to interact actually is the right way. On the other hand, once in a while I’ll articulate a piece of advice such as, “the oyster fork is the only fork on the right side of the table setting,” and a person will think, “I didn’t know that.” I call it the “ah-ha” moment. So, most of the time our etiquette advice either reinforces what people already know or, once in a while, it advises them about something they did not know.
With that idea of etiquette advice in mind, the holidays are a great time for managers and bosses to take a moment to reflect on their own performance for the past year and to identify ways they can be better at leading and relating with their employees in the coming year. Here are five suggestions, offered as reinforcement or an “ah-ha” moment, for ways to improve interactions with employees:
Focus on new employees. Take the time to interact with and train new employees. That time up front will pay dividends in the future. Initially, check in each day, and then, as time passes, you can relax that effort. Make sure you do what you say you’ll do so the employee knows he or she can rely on you.
Follow the rules yourself. Rules are only effective if they bind each person, including you. If you expect people to arrive at the office at 8:30, then you need to be sure you are on time as well. Or, set the example that your company’s dress code matters by following it yourself. Treat people pleasantly, and you’ll notice your employees following your lead. Perhaps most importantly, set the standard by following through on your commitments and meeting your deadlines.
Embrace the compliment. The compliment is a great way to recognize the contributions of your employees. Offer praise for work that is really well done. Compliments aren’t just good for the people receiving them: they motivate people to excel, and that can only be beneficial to the company, too.
Be available. An open door policy is a great way to manage people. Your open door invites communication between you and your employees and allows you to keep a finger on the pulse of your organization.
Recognize the power of “Please” and “Thank you.” “Please” turns a demand into a request while “Thank you” turns an expectation into appreciation. People respond better when demands are couched as an ask and when their efforts are recognized through a show of appreciation.
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.