“Excuse Me: The Survival Guide to Modern Business Etiquette,” by Rosanne J. Thomas, 2017, Amacom, $21.95, 269 pages
Please. Thank you.
Mom always called them the magic words. One opens doors at the front of a request; the other leaves them open at the end. Please. Thank you. If only life were so easy. For sure, as you’ll see in “Excuse Me,” by Rosanne J. Thomas, business is not.
“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
Chances are, you grew up hearing those words so often that they’re tattooed on your soul but, says Thomas, that saying falls short in business today. The perspective taken in the Golden Rule is one of self; the new “Platinum Rule” — to treat people as they would like to be treated — takes the view of others into consideration.
And therein lies the way to get along and to use etiquette in today’s workplace: by practicing civility, respect, “esteem or deference.” Those things have become a necessity because business is no longer 1950’s-homogenized; instead, your office may consist of men and women from four different generations, single and married, gay and straight, and of various ethnicities.
That and technology have revolutionized the way businesses are run, beginning at the start with the hiring process, which may be launched online and may include more than a dozen different interviews. Luddites, says Thomas, should therefore learn to use the internet, at least as much as they’ll need to land and keep a job, and that includes the etiquette needed to communicate well online.
Always be aware of your personal brand (yes, you have one!) Keep a positive attitude and a “professional presence.” Don’t exist in a bubble or treat security or janitorial staff as though they’re “invisible.” Learn to modify your voice to fit every situation you may encounter in a business setting. Never email when you’re angry, and avoid “text-based” communication. Remember that social media posts can come back to haunt you, so be careful. Know that business dining is “rife with risk” but that it comes with enormous opportunities.
And finally, remember that you can live without your smartphone.
The first thing you need to know is this: “Excuse Me” is not a bad book. It’s just not exactly about what you might think it’s about.
Please and thank you are important, but this book is more about getting a job, keeping a job and dealing with problems you might encounter on the job. Yes, that can involve etiquette, but the focus here seems to be lower on pleasantries and higher on personal job management.
Still, there’s no denying that author Roseanne J. Thomas offers wise advice. Her chapter-opening stories are worthy reading, but again, they more resemble those you’d find on an HR-based, confess-all website. Entertaining? Yes. Etiquette? Not much.
So what can a reader come away with here?
If you are in need of some get-along basics, this book has them. If you’re a new grad or are re-entering the workforce, it may please you. For established businesspeople, though, what’s in “Excuse Me” may already be ingrained, thank you.
Terri Schlichenmeyer reviews books about businesses and business practice.