Behavioral Science

Why Manners Still Matter

by . February 20th, 2016

Manners seem quaint and antiquated in this postmodern world, but they remain crucial for running any enterprise.

These days, it seems being polite is for chumps. A 2011 study from Cornell University found that that men who measured below average on agreeableness earned around $9,772 more (around 18%) annually in their sample than “nicer guys”. Ruder women fared similarly, earning about $1,828 more (5% more) than their agreeable counterparts.

On the other hand, other research shows that incivility can be bad for the well-being of an enterprise as a whole. A 2011 paper published by the American Psychological Association found that 86% of 289 workers at three Midwestern health care and manufacturing firms reported “incivility” at work at the workplace. Rudeness at the workplace invariably decreased happiness and increased employee turnover, both creating negative implications for productivity.

This infographic from outlines a few more important facts about the alleged culture of rudeness.

death of manners infographic

So while being rude can help individuals get ahead, as a whole it can potentially cripple a business’s ability to actually get any work done.

In a Huff Post Business article, Dianna Bohooer, author of 46 books on leadership communication & executive presence: Creating Personal Presence & What MORE Can I Say?, listed the following as indicative of discourtesy:

• arriving late to meetings and wasting others’ time by keeping them waiting

• fidgeting with electronic gadgets while others are trying to carry on a conversation with them

• texting and emailing during a meeting

• paying no attention during phone conferences so that things have to be repeated

• not offering to lower the volume if a loud noise is disturbing others

• not speaking to others when entering a room

• failing to return a greeting when someone speaks to them

• borrowing others’ things without asking

• returning borrowed items in an altered condition after using them (dirty, broken, empty)

• sulking and withdrawing when in a bad mood

• speaking in a harsh tone when upset

• slamming a door in someone’s face–whether intentional or in haste

• using sarcasm or put-down humor meant to embarrass others on sensitive issues

• “dressing someone down” in front of others so as to embarrass and humiliate that person

• speaking to some people but not others in a group

• excluding others from a group during breaks or lunch simply because of the feeling that they are socially or intellectually inferior

• not writing down messages–and then forgetting to pass the information on

• dressing inappropriately when others have VIP customers in the office for a visit

• leaving food and beverages sitting around in common areas

• not offering to help others carry a heavy load

• failing to say please and thank you or express appreciation for work done

• failing to exchange pleasantries such as asking how others are feeling when they’ve been out sick

Rudeness isn’t just crippling productivity either. While most of us would think we’d have the sense to not be rude to customers. While that might be true in your case, a quick look through Yelp will quickly disabuse anyone of that notion.

Frontliners who aren’t well-versed in manners specific to the culture they work in run the real risk of ruining not just their reputation, but the chances of developing a positive brand and the opportunities for repeat business.

Even if matters don’t matter to you, they still matter for most of us. Until the day happens that no one really cares for them anymore, which is never going to happen, the ability to handle situations with tact and grace will continue to be an important tool in your bag of leadership skills

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Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.