I usually open doors for people. My mum brought me up to be disciplined about saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. My emails generally start with a friendly greeting and end with an appropriate sign-off: ‘Hiya’ and ‘All the best’ seem to be my personal default setting, rather than the curt ‘Kevin’ that sounds like the sender is grumpy with me and the gaping gap between the last sentence and the company logo that feels like they were running for the toilet when they sent it. Some recent work on my values pointed out to me that I do these things because they are an important expression of who and what I am, not some automatic reflex or quaint quirk of Edwardian Englishness. For me, manners are an expression of respect for others in work and out of it.
I claim no credit for it, but the general standard of decency where I work is also quite high and I opened a recent conference with the observation that when I introduce strangers to our business, their most common feedback is that we are an organisation full of nice people. I guess the unsurprising thing about that is that it’s a significant factor in how people feel about their workplace. Oliver Burkeman, writing in this weekend’s Guardian, points to some research showing that stress increases where manners are in short supply; productivity and creativity shrink where rudeness blossoms like an ugly bruise. It’s more than email, of course, as I’ve written before, but busyness is not a justification for giving the impression that others are less important. Taking the few seconds involved to start and end an email with courtesy matters so much more than ignoring the need or setting an email signature in Outlook.
A friend at work recently created some great communications to support her work around Engagement. It’s academically sound, well tailored to our organisation, expressed with personality and contains the statement of the obvious that perhaps matters most. ‘We all have the power to engage’, she writes, ‘It’s in the little things we do every day’.