- What ever happened to "The Golden Rule"?
I was recently invited to bid on a technical writing project. The initial meeting was treated like a job interview to determine my qualifications and everything seemed to go smoothly. Evidently I passed the test as I was invited for a second interview to discuss the project assignment in more detail. I arrived at the company's offices a few minutes ahead of schedule (11:00am). Nobody was at the front desk so I took a seat in their waiting room along with another gentleman who I judged to be approximately the same age as myself. We exchanged pleasantries and I soon discovered he was also invited to bid on the same assignment. I was dressed in suit and tie for the appointment, and my competitor was dressed in "business casual." Actually, we developed a good dialog about who we were and where we were from. There was no animosity between us, just some friendly banter.
During the course of the conversation, I discovered his appointment was scheduled for 10:20am and even though people had come by the reception area, nobody had spoken to him. This concerned me as I noticed I had already been waiting for fifteen minutes. Normally, I would leave ten minutes after an appointment, as some of my doctors and dentists have learned over the years, but since I had been busy conversing with the other person, time seemed to slip by. Shortly thereafter, another visitor walked into the room. Like us, he had arrived a few minutes early so he wouldn't be late for his appointment. Again, nobody greeted him and he took a seat next to us. Time kept ticking away until it was 11:20am, when I started to become angry over our inhospitable treatment. Finally, I could stand it no longer, wished my acquaintances good luck, and exited the building. Needless to say, I was unhappy about being taken for granted and wasting my time.
When I arrived back at my office, I sent an e-mail to my contact with the company expressing my displeasure. After explaining what had happened, I informed him that if he wanted to arrange another meeting, I would only do so on a time and materials basis and quoted a hefty hourly rate. Not surprising, I did not receive a reply from my contact expressing any regret.
My concern though is that we are witnessing the extinction of professional courtesy in the work place. To illustrate:
* Telephones used to be answered promptly and courteously. Further, people would take whatever action was appropriate to assist the caller. Voice mail did away with all this. Unless you happen to catch the person right then and there on the phone, in all likelihood you will never receive a response.
* All job applications used to be answered with a letter, written professionally, acknowledging the letter and stating its condition, e.g., under review or thanking them for the opportunity to review the resume even though the company was not hiring at the time.
* Correspondence was typically typed out neatly, was written with proper grammar, and colloquialisms were avoided. Today, business correspondence contains considerable slang, uses primitive sentence structure, and spell checkers are avoided at all cost, particularly interoffice communications.
* Years ago, if you made an appointment, you kept it. If something extraneous occurred thereby forcing a delay or postponement, the other party was notified promptly so they can adjust their schedule accordingly. As my recent appointment proved, there is no consideration for the other person. I am reminded of Mahatma Gandhi who said, "Being late is an act of violence, an act of terrorism, because you unnerve people."
Such rudeness reflects a general disregard for humans, be they customers, vendors, employees, or job applicants. Basically, it is an open admission that we hold people in contempt as opposed to soliciting their cooperation. With such disregard for people, it's no small wonder "micromanagement" is the management philosophy of choice in today's workplace. Maybe it's our technology that is jading our sense of humanity. After all, it commands our attention and various senses.
Getting back to my appointment, I wonder how long the other people in the reception area stayed around? Both were "old school" and felt if you made an appointment, both parties had an obligation to keep it. Unfortunately, the company I was visiting was not of this philosophy. The only way to teach people this lesson is to walk away from the appointment as I did, and charge them for your time. Only then will they take you seriously and afford you the basic dignity you deserve. Otherwise, they will continue to take you for granted. Frankly, the longer we accept such disrespect, the more commonplace it will become. I suggest we just walk away from such insensitive knuckleheads. We may not get the contract, but they won't get the best service from their people either.
Let us not forget the ancient "Golden Rule" as found in all religions: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." This is a two-way reciprocal relationship between people. Whenever such relationships become a one-way proposition, it ultimately denotes a decline in our moral fiber and culture.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at email@example.com
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