• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Manners for pedestrians

What may strike foreigners visiting Nigeria is the flagrancy with which pedestrians break basic traffic laws. It gets more perplexing when it is obvious that these laws are broken at the risk of the law breakers’ lives; this in turn casts a shadow on our educational system. Exactly what are Nigerians being taught in schools if basic traffic rules are being violated recklessly?

For example, why should pedestrians:

–       Prefer to run across the highway rather than use the pedestrian bridges? Does it require a Masters’ degree to understand the purpose of a bridge? Pedestrian bridges are for our protection. Not enough pedestrian bridges for the populace.

–       Jaywalk: Jaywalking refers to the illegal or reckless pedestrian crossing of a roadway. It is not uncommon to see well dressed men and women run across the road even when they see that the traffic light is green for vehicles. Does this action convey a mark of basic intelligence least of all refinement?

–       Walk against traffic:  The logic is really simple. Whenever you are walking along a busy road, move against the traffic. Never turn your back on on-coming vehicles.

At close analysis, I believe it will become obvious that for the average person, these actions are traceable not to a lack of education, but to an ingrained laziness. Being refined requires a lot of work in thinking and emotional management- a task that is too much for many people. The unpopular truth is this: refinement involves discipline. In the end, the refined man or woman is not necessarily the most educated person in the room, but the one who knows and practises knowledge.

Workplace manners

Human behaviour flows from three sources: desire, emotion and knowledge so Plato the father of Philosophy observed. I quite agree with him. What has also become apparent to me in the course of dealing with thousands of individuals is that of the three sources, knowledge sways the strongest influence over the behaviour of people and most of the common manners mistakes people make are as a result of ignorance.

As with other forms of etiquette, knowledge of workplace etiquette is only valued and understood after costly mistakes have been made.

The truth is that few things are more important than our behaviour, because it serves as the mirror through which others perceive and judge us. In the business world, perception is reality, and the public’s opinion of you or your organisation dictates its success or failure. The reason is simple: the world of business thrives on relationships, and bad relationships ineluctably lead to bad businesses. It has been observed that companies which put up with ill-mannered people cannot only have more difficulty recruiting and retaining the best and brightest talent but are also prone to higher client churn, damaged reputations and diminished investor confidence. Under an atmosphere fraught with poor manners, innovation, creativity and teamwork suffer both within and outside the organisation. Smart organisations have identified this, and are modifying their hiring strategies.

Today, players in the corporate landscape are scrutinised for the traditional precepts of integrity, loyalty, charisma and refinement, in addition to their professional qualifications. It is almost taken for granted that hard skills or what is widely known as technical skills is a criterion for employment in a standard organisation. The condition for growth and promotion, however, depends on an individual’s ability to balance competence or technical skills and personality refinement.

Where the presence or absence of technical skills is determined by hands-on knowledge and performance on the job, personality refinement being a much more abstract quality, has a different measurement yardstick. At the office, your refinement is appraised based on the fluidity of your daily interactions and recognised by the presence or absence of certain traits.

This section will guide your office manners along a more refined path, and it will help you manage yourself and others effectively. This, after all is the dividing line between the refined and the unrefined.

Managing yourself

In the last 30 years, there have been phenomenal changes in the Nigerian business environment and the global world of work at large. The transformations occasioned by the radical developments in technology and especially the global economic crisis have revolutionised the way we do business and the way we relate with one another.  There are no doubts that a good part of these changes are positive, particularly those that arise from technological advances. But transformations that have arisen from the recession have left some marks on the business environment, specifically in the area of interpersonal relationships.

Thanks to a fierce need to stay afloat and make profit, pressure in today’s work places have skyrocketed. These days, the buzz word in most corporate organisations is “target” and this has become the number one excuse for bad behaviours in the workplace. There is no doubt that the pressure to meet up with financial targets is an ever present reality and that the stress is really intense.  Nonetheless, in your struggle to stand out positively, bear in mind that a good strategy to adopt is to differentiate yourself by possessing a practical knowledge of etiquette and good manners. It becomes all the more important because it is so scarce these days. What is more,good manners in the work place are not just a sign of refinement, but mandatory, because a lack of it contravenes the fundamental principles of humanity.

Consider this: if it is inexcusable to run over people because you are late for an appointment, why should it be a trivial thing to offend the sensibilities of others because of the pressure you encounter on the job? Whatever may be your position in your organisation: top executive, middle level or even lower level executive, the demonstration of simple commonsense manners and actions propelled by careful thought for the next person, will showcase you as a refined person, win you the respect of your colleagues, smoothen your career path and make life better for all.