Saturday, June 1, 2013

May I Help You? Oh, Screw It!

Today I read “Manners & Misdemeanors,” an article in the June/July issue of Town & Country.

The truth is that my lifestyle is as far from T&C as is the East from the West, but I do buy the magazine a few times a year. It has good articles and sometimes great fashion and jewelry spreads. And this month, Lauren Hutton is on the cover, and I like Lauren Hutton.

In any case, the article is about how people—including server people—no longer use good manners when dining in public.

I’ve had my share of poor servers, and I’m sure that if I were to look around, I’d notice some fellow diners (perhaps at my own table) exhibiting poor manners. But I confess that this really isn’t my cause. As for me, I mourn the passing of manners in another arena, and that’s professional networking.

Specifically, I'm troubled by the demise of what used to be called “professional courtesy.” Now, perhaps this was always more concept that reality. I don’t know. What I do know is that whatever may have been true in the past, in these current presents, there is a lot of rude, dismissive behavior amongst those who claim to consider themselves colleagues.

I have a friend who was laid off a few years ago (now employed for several years) who told me that when she was looking for a job, she was surprised by two things—the people she was certain would help and didn’t and the people from whom she didn’t expect help at all but who extended it nonetheless.

I’ve definitely experienced some of this while transitioning into a writing/consulting career, and I think the best way I can make sense of it is to say that some people are simply full of shit. They make a lot of noise about caring, and they project a warm and interested persona, but it’s false. Others are simply bad-mannered. Some are overwhelmed and don’t have the communication skills to express to you that they’d like to help but can’t, and still others don’t care anything about you or whether you do well or don’t do well.

And so I’m back to professional courtesy, because as I understand it, the point of a professional courtesy is to extend a nicety to someone for no other reason than that you share a vocation or some professional affiliation. And I have been absolutely appalled at the lack of courtesy present in my HR circles. Appalled. Some of these people can’t even be bothered saying “thank you” to a courtesy extended to them, let alone take five minutes to put in a good word for you or provide some information that could help you along your way. Too bad.

So again, I’m reminded that people are people. Some are giving and others aren’t, but the concept of professional courtesy is pretty much dead as far as I can tell. And I think that’s a shame, but it is what it is, right? 

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