Bring Courtesy to the Workplace

We have all heard this quite routinely and consistently about the behaviour of Indians overseas – how we become very compliant, disciplined citizens in public in another country vis-a-vis in our country. We fall woefully short on adhering to basics and rules in public in our own country but are happy to comply overseas.

A parallel I can draw to this is how inadequate we are when it comes to exchanging pleasantries and expressing gratitude at the workplace, especially to those who work for us. These mysteriously go missing, particularly as one climbs the leadership ladder. Some tend to develop a sense of entitlement with people below the ranks and at times with peers also.

Courtesy is free!

As the famous saying goes, courtesy costs nothing. It wins friends and loyalists for you. Taking the above point of Indians complying when they are overseas, a colleague explained, we carry the ‘entitlement syndrome’ with us even at the workplace. We believe people are hired to do their job. Using words like please and thank you alters the equation of employment, and we don’t want to change it. Hence, many times people are intentionally blunt and abrupt. Same folks, when interacting with people from a different country will be at their courteous best. They are more vocal for global!

Courteous communication throws light on one’s personality and integrity. Human Resources teams of sizeable organisations emphasise the need for courtesies while dealing with external stakeholders, especially customers. The same professionals turn a blind eye when they see it lacking among colleagues in their company.

Appreciation or Questionable Humour?

A senior executive in an advertising agency once said one of the most difficult challenges she faces is in dealing with her boss who let alone appreciates her work, instead passes of nasty sarcasm as humour! Such behaviour over a while becomes toxic and damaging. At times they are like political jokes, loaded with more flammable material that threatens to damage the working relationship, she said.

Some believe in the policy of attack is the best form of defence. A pre-emptive strategy is the best way to defend oneself. Owning up and apologising for mistakes they have committed doesn’t come naturally to them. Courteous behaviour is directly related to showing respect, and some thrive in displaying a rebel kind of persona.

Courtesy is priceless!

An essential point people miss out in the workplace in India is that we are all humans, and self-respect is vital to all of us. This understanding helps inculcate better, courteous communication. We are ever willing to consider people belonging to other nationalities as superior to us. We are not willing to accord equal status to a colleague sharing the same nationality. As my friend from the advertising agency said, many believe behaving rude and making personal attacks are the right thing to do. People with rude and aggressive traits are a majority, and polite and courteous folks are in the minority.

Borrowing the famous advertising caption of Master Card, I would say, there are some things money can’t buy, courtesy can. It is priceless!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Radha Radhakrishnan
Radha Radhakrishnan has over 25 years of experience in corporate communications and marketing across different industries and geographies. She has built a reputation as a storyteller and a creative thinker. She has mentored social entrepreneurial startups and has been a visiting faculty at premier communications institutes in India. She is currently the global head of corporate communications at Wipro Enterprises. She anchors the weekly PR and Communication podcast, Mrigashira.

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