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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

August 24, 2016

The Decline of Professional Courtesy.

Julie Q. Brush

How professionally courteous are you?

Do you respond to emails and phone calls or blow them off? Do you follow through on commitments or do you often “flake”? Are you timely or are you always late? How respectful are you of your boss’s and other colleagues’ time? As a manager, how committed are you to your team’s success? Do you ask for help from others, but rarely pay it back? Do you express appreciation or have a sense of entitlement? Are you less than forthcoming with employers in an interview process?

We are living in a time where the level of courtesy professionals extend to one another is on the decline.

No doubt about it – it’s tough out there. The pace is frenetic, the profession is in flux and loyalty is diminishing. And most everyone is jockeying for survival…with a focus on “Me”. In addition, there are increasing pressures at home. Many people are feeling oversubscribed and overwhelmed. So the life dynamics we face make it more difficult to rise to the extra level of professionalism that exhibits the quality and character of an A-player individual.

The lack of professional courtesy is typically not an intentional slight or egregious act. Regardless, there should be a greater commitment to incorporate more of it in our daily lives. The result will be better relationships, a better reputation, a better career, a better and happier You. So how does an oversubscribed person tackle this task? Below are a few suggestions to help you increase your professional courtesy prowess.

  • Know Thyself. Most people are not aware of all their work and personal responsibilities. They are reactive, which creates inefficiencies with time and productivity. So write down what you have on your plate. This list will change, but being aware of your responsibilities will make you more mindful and tee you up to get organized.
  • Get Organized. For a busy professional, the key to being successfully courteous is time management. Without it, you’ll live a life of disorganization. Things will fall through the cracks. Your commitments will suffer–and your credibility will sink. So organize your time…in detail. Perhaps it’s responding to emails at the start of each day. Perhaps you limit your after work commitments to 3x/month. However you structure it, create a plan that is manageable. And stick to it. If you need help, hire a coach, take a time management class or read how-to books/articles.
  • Manage Expectations. If you’re hit with a ton of “to do’s” and can’t act immediately, let people know this-and when they can expect you to take action. You still get courtesy credit for responding in a timely manner, even if you need to delay your actions.
  • Say No. Saying no is an important part of maintaining boundaries and a manageable slate so you can keep your commitments. And to all you women out there: “No” can be said graciously and people will still like you.
  • Have Courage. Sometimes it’s easier to blow things off than to face a difficult interaction. But if you owe another professional a response…or an explanation, have the courage to give it to them.
  • Better Late Than Never. We can’t always do things ASAP. But there is no statute of limitations on responding. So better to act late than never. And don’t forget the apology.
  • Treat Others How You Would Like To Be Treated. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true. And it always comes full circle.
  • Do The Right Thing. Doing the courteous thing…is the right thing. So when your inner Jiminy Cricket goes off, listen. And act accordingly. You’ll feel better about yourself for doing so.

The legal profession is one of the most prestigious professions in the world – and attracts the best and brightest people. So it is our responsibility to lead by example. To lift the bar higher in service to each other: To expect more…and most importantly to give more. It isn’t an easy task, but by incorporating more professional courtesy into our lives…our profession and those in it will be the better for it.

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Great stuff here. At least 2 or 3 times per week, I share this on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google Plus. Keep up the good work.

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