The managers and leaders of the future need good global manners, now more than ever!
As a culture, we don’t really learn global etiquette. Because of the way our society is still largely structured, we don’t see the need for universal courtesy. We as Indians are still not very far removed from the strictly regulated feudal system (Zamindari) or the “Government” immediately after the established independence. And it worked well for about 70 years. However, it makes us dysfunctional and misfit in the new globalized and e-centric corporate world order. It’s bad enough here at home, where socioeconomic changes have blurred the old boundaries of categorization, replacing them with new and yet unknown categories of class and professionalism. But it becomes an absolute disadvantage when traveling abroad, working abroad, or dealing with foreign colleagues / friends / superiors in India, something that today’s young managers and future leaders must do more and more.
Traditionally, the modes of behavior of each section of society, with respect to ascending and descending social relations, were strictly defined. Lateral social behavior was generally left to the individual. But since lateral social relationships were almost entirely confined within the circles of family, extended family, and business, it was no big deal. You didn’t need to pay special attention to courtesy and manners, and all the necessary guidelines were easily provided by the rules on “how to behave around those older / younger than you.” When the circles expanded, to include not only non-community and non-family members, but also non-nationals or ex-nationals, things changed and all of a sudden the label started to matter. Today, one of the main factors preventing Indian employees from breaking the international glass ceiling is global manners.
However, there was and is no formal training in etiquette at the school level. These new laws of global social behavior are also not taught at home. As a result, most of us make a lot of mistakes. Some of us have rubbed shoulders with international environments long enough to realize how important etiquette is. So they try to learn on their own, from various sources, including soft skills classes. However, most still don’t seem to mind or bother. Not only can this ruin their impression and deprive them of global opportunities, it also brings a bad name to the entire “Indian” community around the world, negatively affecting the prospects for future generations.
So what do we do wrong? It can be as basic as not knowing when to use Hello versus Hello. For example, most “me” Indians have completely renounced greeting, even in formal situations. While this is usually approved in the local context, in the case of a foreign post, interview, etc., it can ruin the impression. Hello is for friends, intimate circles, family, informal situations. In an interview, or when you are introduced to someone “important”, hello is not enough! Hello is the only greeting for formal or important occasions.
We also don’t have a basic etiquette concept when someone asks “how are you” or “how are you”. First of all, how many people realize that “how are you” is not a question? If someone says “how are you” it is a greeting … like hello … they are not asking the state of your health or your life, so do not tell them. The correct answer is “how are you?” If someone says it, you say it back. On the other hand, if someone says “how are you” or “how are you”, you respond with “I’m fine / great / fine, thank you.” Nor is it an invitation to unload your problems on the investigator. It’s just formality.
With our feudal heritage, another thing we never learned was to say please and thank you. Lower orders are CREATED to serve higher orders, so where is the matter of thanking them? Therefore, we are generally very rude and rude people. We never say please when we order food for example, or we thank the waiter for bringing us water, or food, or anything. After all, we rationalize, it’s your job! Well, etiquette doesn’t care if it’s their job, if someone does something for you, no matter how trivial, you thank them; if you WANT someone to do something for you, no matter how trivial, say please.
Let’s not forget the famous Indian Standard Time syndrome. We just don’t seem to understand the concept of punctuality. And, although being late to a party or going out with friends may not be that serious (although it is unbearably rude, especially if it is a recurring phenomenon), the same arrogant attitude over time, in the case of a meeting or for an interview, it can have serious effects on your career and your overall reputation. The immense amount of irritation it will create where you have to wait will not do any good for your life or career. Whether it’s the traffic, the inability to get dressed quickly, or whatever, plan ahead. It is a good idea to arrive at least 15 minutes early rather than five minutes late.
There are other things to practice. Simple things, like holding the door for someone. Or the ability to calmly queue for anything! Given any situation where an orderly line is required, be it at a ticket counter, the bank, the bus stop, or wherever, Indians will invariably try to get to the counter at once, or at least look over their shoulders. from others and will pressure. forward to get a better view of the procedures, thus subjecting others not only to shoving and body odor, but also considerably slowing down the basic process itself. And by international standards of polite social behavior, invading someone else’s space like that is absolutely NO-NO!
Wait a few seconds to let older or disabled people pass. Offer your seat to an elderly person, a pregnant woman or a person with disabilities, on a bus or train. Practice basic table and social manners. Don’t push, sneeze, cough, burp and burp in public and if you do, cover your mouth and apologize. Do not chew food with your mouth wide open, or pick chicken scraps from between your teeth with a toothpick, without feeling the slightest need to cover the open hole. At a grocery store, park your carts out of the way and not in the middle of the aisle as you peruse the shelves on both sides. Do not block the entire stretch for others. Don’t let children run loose, bumping into people, carts, and shelves, and pushing attendees against a wall. Locking out an entire shelf while six people are participating in a “family conference” on which brand of coffee to buy is rude. If you don’t reach over people’s shoulders, or under their arms, to grab things. In restaurants, speak quietly, don’t allow children to run around behaving heinously, and control the explosion of decibels while having a phone conversation. Turn off your phones or put them on silence in a movie theater or theater show.
Don’t be nosy and too familiar. A French friend of mine, a woman of a certain age, always found it extremely offensive that Indians, after half an hour of knowing each other, asked her why she had not married yet and if she was dating someone. This is a common problem. Culturally, we place so much importance on marriage and have so few boundaries that we don’t realize how personal such an issue is to the rest of the world. A close friend may ask such a question, but not a passing acquaintance or someone in a more formal social situation! Along the same lines, a couple, married for about four years, always complained that everyone not only asked why they didn’t have children, but also assumed there was a problem and offered a lot of unwanted advice. The idea that a couple “chooses” to wait a while before childbearing, or “chooses” not to have children, seems to be something we cannot understand and we must learn to back off.
The list is practically endless, so many little things that we do unconsciously, due to our total unfamiliarity with the principle of courtesy and basic civic sense, but they all affect the way people around the world look at us, treat us and they feel around. us. Seemingly small, tiny things can leave a bad taste in the mouth of the visitor or foreign colleague. It ranges from the way we speak, what we say, to body language and “meddling.” Considering that India is doing its best to become a world power, and that Indians are becoming more and more ‘out of tune’, this simply will not work! As young managers and leaders of tomorrow in a global work culture in a shrinking world, it’s time to pay a little attention to how we present ourselves to the world and how we interact with its members. So do your research, pay attention, and learn. Consciously perform good etiquette until it becomes second nature. That is the only way to be successful in a globally connected world!