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Guest Article

We welcome Laura McDonald, an interior designer who runs the lively and entertaining Plinth & Chintz website. Here she has some common-sense advice for all prospective interior designers. You at the back - sit up and listen!

Don't Embarrass Yourself
Important Etiquette Tips for Everyone

It appears that in today's world, Miss Manners has gone missing. Form a search party and let's go find her because etiquette still matters.

Although we hope that you are respectful of your mother, kind to your neighbor, and civil to your teacher, we're specifically talking about business etiquette here. The problem is that personal, day-to-day manners and professional manners go together like chocolate and peanut butter. What you should have learned at home is key to how you should act on the job.

Tragically, we've found that many parents have done their children the disservice of failing to impart civility into their households either due to ignorance, stubbornness or just plain laziness. Now those kids are heading out into the world seeking fortune and success, and they are at a complete disadvantage, and many of them don't even understand why:

  • "Why didn't I get called back for the interview?"
  • "Why did that other applicant get the job over me?"
  • "Why didn't my boss choose me to make the presentation to the potential new clients?"
  • "Why did the manufacturer's rep invite everyone else out to lunch except me?"
  • "Why did the client request I be transferred off her project?"

Think about it. If / when you have a full-time job, at least one-third of your day will be spent at the office among co-workers, clients, vendors, etc. If etiquette - otherwise thought of as basic rules of behavior - isn't practiced by those in the office then adverse things start happening:

The office vibe becomes unpleasant.

If this happens, then people dread going to work. If that happens, motivation wanes and productivity drops.

Furthermore, reps and vendors don't enjoy calling on unpleasant people. Why would they? Reps are a great source of leads and information, and if they like you they may share a project lead. However, if they are confronted with a morose office full of people every time they swing by, they likely wouldn't be motivated to share their inside information, not to mention recommend your firm for a project.

If enough vendors sense and then share information about the tension in your office, your firm will get a negative reputation in our oh-so-small industry. What are the implications? Your firm may not get priority when a rep needs to return phone calls or get the best applicants looking for a job. Lastly, the firm might be passed over for a project because it's considered difficult to work with. Not good all the way around.

Employees avoid dealing with each other.

If this happens, communication falters. If that happens, mistakes are made and productivity drops. Low productivity hurts the company financially enough just on its own, but mistakes can cost lots of money, not to mention company morale, industry reputation, even more time and, ultimately, clients. Losing any of the above translates into losing money.

Another casualty of poor inner office interaction is the ability of the most deserving employees to get recognized and promoted. Think about it. This condition hurts the firm two-fold. If personnel avoid communicating, then how do employees know that they are valued and how do employers know whom to value? The former results in a bad attitude, further lowering office morale and an even more hostile work environment. The latter results in the placement of inappropriate people, which leads to poor management, which leads to high turnover, the siphoning off of talent and even worse office morale.

It's a vicious cycle, but it can be avoided.

If all children in the office learned to play nicely with others, think of how more pleasant the workplace and how profitable companies would be. It sounds simplistic and na´ve, but it's evident how small actions beget big pay-offs. It doesn't matter what your job description is: principal designer, intern, office manager, project architect, librarian, purchasing agent, or design director. Rules of etiquette apply because in every instance part of the job description is dealing / communicating / coping with others. Learn those vital skills and you will be much more likely to turn that entry-level position into a successful career.

Now that you know why etiquette still matters, we'll address what manners are essential and how you can apply your newly found (or sometimes forgotten) people skills. But that's for the next issue. Until then, sit up straight and don't talk with your mouth full.

www.plinthandchintz.com

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