Courtesy is an advantage, but one few display

Q. Whatever happened to common courtesy? I'm a marketing consultant, and I notice increasing number of people who don't return phone calls, who expect my time for free, and who don't even show up for scheduled meetings! How do I handle such common rudeness?

A. Courtesy is no longer common. The good news is that if you return phone calls the same day, respect others' time, and keep commitments, you've got an automatic advantage over most competitors. The bad news is that most professionals won't return the favor.

We can all get into heated diatribes about ways in which the world ought to be different. But as the nursery rhyme goes, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride." The bottom line is that you have to set up your business practices to assume rudeness and be pleasantly surprised if you get courtesy.

Here are some tips:

--If you need people to return a phone call within a specific time, give them motivation for doing so. For example, let them know that your time will be booked, you will be out of town or a deadline they care about will expire.

--Anticipate a lack of promptness on e-mails and voice mail and call people for action or information well ahead of the time you need it.

--Create financial penalties for folks who blow off appointments or commitments, such as cancellation policies, project fees paid partially up front, and rush fees.

--Make your limits clear up front. If you don't want to give your time away, have an assistant call or let people know you only have five minutes to talk.

Huffiness never gets people to change their ways. Setting up rewards others care about and consequences they want to avoid works beautifully. A big part of the problem with assuming courtesy these days is many people don't share your value system, and you're bound to be disappointed.

By building your business so that courtesy isn't the prerogative of people who work with you, you'll screen out people who are entitled and demanding and who won't value your expertise. These people make poor customers and will further damage your business by referring their rude buddies. You don't need that kind of business.

You'll also get an emotional paycheck when you get when you go to work because you'll adore your customers and feel respected!

The last word(s)

Q. Can I get away with not giving two weeks' notice?

A. Sure, as long as you enjoy the acrid scent of bridges burning.

(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)


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