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    Where Have All the (Professional) Manners Gone?

    By Kristen Houghton     

    I wasn’t sure that I had dialed the right number. The person who answered the phone rushed through the greeting, then put me on hold.


    After five minutes of waiting, I hung up, dialed again and received the same treatment. When, after four tries I finally got through, I felt I had the right to complain a bit and asked to speak to the office manager. But there was no courtesy apology forthcoming from “Jennifer-speaking-please-hold.” Instead, I was asked when I wanted an appointment and put on hold again! I never did get to speak to the manager.

    Doctors’ offices are not the only place where professional manners seem to be lacking. Service in restaurants, sales clerks in stores; just about anywhere a customer, a client, or a patient goes they will encounter rudeness. Professional manners seem a thing of the past. Our society as a whole has undergone a radical change in manners, but when it happens in professional surroundings, it is somehow worse.

    I always cringe at the twenty-something bank clerk who calls an eighty-year old customer by her first name even though she requests to be addressed by her title of Mrs. I remember the embarrassment and anger I felt when I overheard a pharmacy attendant, who was repeating information to an elderly man for the second time, turn to her colleague and say loudly, “Was that guy deaf or just stupid?”

    What happened to being professional and courteous to people?

    A few years ago I worked in a school where the person you met upon entering the building was the school secretary, Mrs. Evelyn Tabian. She was the epitome of what a secretary should be. Dressed professionally, and respectful to faculty and parents alike, she gave class to the school. Her speech was peppered with,“excuse me, may I, and thank you.” She acted as a professional should act and always said that she was representing the school. Mrs. Tabian had poise and grace under fire and never let her personal life interfere with her professional one. Making social phone calls was something she did on her breaks. I respected her because you knew when you dealt with her you were dealing with a highly qualified woman.

    Recently a colleague of mine went to a high school where he was going to give a seminar. He was greeted with, “What do you need, hon?” by a woman who was dressed in jeans and a low-cut top. She was the secretary! While my colleague waited, this “secretary” used the office phone to make her social plans for her weekend.

    He was kept waiting for over twenty minutes. When I asked him if he had asked to see the principal about this unprofessional behavior, he said “no, what was the use?” The problem is that most people hesitate to voice a complaint because they know they won’t be put through to anyone in authority. How often have you been able to speak to a supervisor when you requested it? My guess is not often.

    There really is no place for rudeness in professional environments. Each person in these environments is representing the doctor, the school, the store, the restaurant, etc. Their professionalism, or lack of it, gives a lasting impression.

    A good idea to follow is this “rule” which a local orthodontist gives to her new employees-

    “Professional situations call for a higher level of manners than those you would use in any casual situation. Being respectful is being professional and being professional is what I expect in my office.”

    Written by Kristen HoughtonRate this article:

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