Modern Etiquette: Handling the politics of business

WASHINGTON Mon Oct 8, 2012 6:07am EDT

Workers sit at their desks in the City Controller's office at city hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania July 12, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Workers sit at their desks in the City Controller's office at city hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania July 12, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After an exceedingly bitter election in 1800, a victorious Thomas Jefferson sought to heal some rather raw wounds between the two warring parties.

During his first inaugural address, he uttered the now famous line, "We are all republicans; we are all federalists."

More than two centuries later, the United States remains divided by red states, blue states, and those in between. Around this time each election year, even ordinary citizens catch political fever and divide themselves into opposing camps.

In business, just like politics, people are often divided - whether it's a cultural divide, a line drawn between teams in an organization, or the divide between boss and employee.

Here are a few simple rules that all of us can adopt to ensure that we display a sense of decorum and civility in the workplace.

Agree to Disagree.

While the U.S. Constitution allows for freedom of speech, our own sense of civility should always drive the business conversation. Always debate issues strictly on the merits and never resort to personal attacks on another person. And, if you both hit a brick wall and can't agree, then agree to disagree.

Just the Facts.

Always stick to the facts of an issue and try to understand the other person's point of view. If you cannot reach a resolution, simply accept that you believe in different things.

Keep Your Cool.

If your blood starts to boil and you feel your pressure start to rise, just walk away before a confrontation turns ugly and you find yourself in a situation you can't mend.

Yelling is not an Option.

Raising your voice to make a point is a sign you are out of control, too emotional, or worse -you are unstable. Plus, you accomplish nothing.

Body Language Speaks Volumes.

When you're angry it can show in your body language or tone and that's no better than showing anger verbally. When you find yourself in a frustrating situation, adopt the British credo during World War Two: "Keep calm and carry on."

Election Day is but one day on the Calendar.

At some point the speeches subside, the winning candidate takes office, and he or she is left to pull factions together and govern. Likewise, you will return to your normal routine and will work with people with whom you disagreed, or with their colleagues.

Etiquette, whether it is business etiquette or the etiquette of running a political campaign, is defined as "the customs or rules governing behavior regarded as correct or acceptable."

The next time you're about to get angry with someone you work with ask yourself, "will my behavior be viewed as correct? "Will my behavior be viewed as acceptable"?

(Pamela Eyring is the president of The Protocol School of Washington (PSOW), which provides professional business etiquette and international protocol training. Founded in 1988, PSOW is the only school of its kind in the U.S. to become accredited. Any opinions expressed are her own. PSOW's website is: www.psow.edu.)

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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