This is a guest post by Rosanne Thomas, author of EXCUSE ME: The Survival Guide to Modern Business Etiquette, and founder and president of Protocol Advisors, Inc.


Modern Business EtiquetteLeaders have enormous responsibilities. They determine the major goals of the organization and provide its vision. They create and communicate a company mission. They manage growth, profitability, and expenses. They listen, motivate, and develop other leaders. They inspire, hire, and fire. They are the face of an organization to employees, customers, shareholders, and the community at large. They are accountable for everything that happens on their watch, often taking bullets for their employees, and never blaming or passing the buck. They do all of these things while exhibiting strength, optimism, and confidence, realizing the potential influence of their every word and action. And somehow, the best of them also sleep soundly at night, despite the massive weight on their shoulders.

How do they do this? It is not as difficult as one might suspect. They rest easier knowing they have deliberately defined, communicated, modeled, and set non-negotiable expectations for their corporate cultures. Company leaders are fully cognizant that cultures make or break organizations. The benefits to companies that establish genuinely respectful cultures are enormous, including everything from greater productivity and increased bottom lines to happy shareholders. The enhanced reputation of a respectful organization means it is able to hire and retain the best and brightest, resulting in a calculable competitive advantage. Teamwork, trust, and creative problem solving are fostered, and employees realize greater job satisfaction, self-respect, and even earning potential.

Conversely, a disrespectful culture affects employee morale, engagement and productivity. It also negatively affects coworkers who witness it, causing them stress and job insecurity. It becomes contagious, creating a greater likelihood of rudeness throughout the employee population. Employees who perceive they are being disrespected are more likely to leave jobs, increasing their companies’ severance and benefits pay, recruiting, hiring and training costs, and potentially legal fees.

Leaders realize what is at stake. They know that just having respectful attitudes themselves is not enough. They start by defining what are acceptable and unacceptable words and behaviors within their organizations and hold themselves and their leadership teams to these standards each and every day. They have zero tolerance for favoritism, damaging behavior or speech, or bullying. They do not engage in unethical activities such as deceptive business practices, embezzlement, or predatory pricing.

Instead, they make sure all employees understand the company’s code of conduct and the potential ramifications of not following it. They encourage the reporting of disrespectful behavior without fear of consequence. They follow-through on addressing reports of disrespect. They put into place hiring practices that identify possible “red flags” such as a candidate who criticizes a former employee or casts blame on others for their circumstances. And they put positive reinforcements in place. These includes:

  • Hiring for attitude over experience, recognizing it is far easier to train for skill than it is to instill in someone the values of respect and empathy.
  • Rewarding good behavior. At Zappos, employees who show exemplary behaviors can earn “Zollars” (Zappos dollars) and peer “Wow” awards. Anything from holding open a door to volunteering, cleaning common areas, or even just smiling and saying hello to a colleague, might earn someone a $50 award.
  • Publically recognizing employees for their positive attitudes, accomplishments, and initiatives at company meetings.
  • Modeling the behavior they wish to see among their employees each and every day.

What accrues to leaders who take these steps to promote respect within their organizations? The confidence that they have used the powerful tool in their arsenal– their corporate culture – to ensure their success. No wonder they sleep well.


About the Guest Post Author:

Rosanne J. Thomas is the author of EXCUSE ME: The Survival Guide to Modern Business Etiquette. She is also founder and president of Protocol Advisors, Inc., specialists in providing business etiquette training to professionals at respected organizations from Tiffany & Co. to Boeing. She also helps prepare students at top colleges and universities to achieve the highest degree of workplace success.