Broken Business Etiquette Rules Call for Mediation Skills

Business etiquette has been the featured topic recently on National Public Radio’s KojoNnamdi Show and in the Business Section of the New York Times.  A new book on business etiquette, Miss Manners Minds Your Business (W.W. Norton) by Judith Martin and her son Nicholas Ivor Martin discusses the dilemmas in today’s workplace, where open space and informal dress prevails.

The essence of the etiquette recommendations seems to be the bulletin board rule:  “If you can’t put what you want to communicate on a bulletin board for anyone to read, then you shouldn’t put it in a e-mail, a text or a voice mail.”   People don’t recognize the difference between public and private communications according to Peter Post co-author of The Etiquette Advantage in Business (William Morrow) who was quoted in the Times article.

So what happens next when the etiquette rules are broken?  A conflict begins to simmer and if not handled appropriately it escalates.  Hopefully, good managers will recognize the brewing business conflict, bring the parties together, use active listening skills and work it out.   However, conflict avoidance is a strategy that many employees and supervisors use because they are uncomfortable dealing with conflict.  Avoidance of conflict may be a good strategy if the conflict has a low impact.  Benefits of avoidance includereduced stress, saved time and reduced risks.  However, the costs associated with avoidance are decreased communication, resentment and potential delays.  If the conflict festers it can infect other employees and teams, resulting in decreased productivity and low morale.  Mismanaged conflict has a high cost to organizations.

Mediation will help people get back to work.   What lies at the heart of the broken business etiquette and generates employee conflict is miscommunication and disrespect. Smart businesses train their managers in conflict resolution so they can be the first line of defense to resolve these festering issues.  Early conflict resolution protects reputations, saves money and enhances productivity.  The bonus that comes from well managed conflict is change and growth.   So make friends with a mediator!!

Ellen F. Kandell is a certified professional mediator and attorney with over 30 years of public and private sector experience. She provides mediation, group facilitation and training to diverse, national clients. Get in touch with her via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or give her a call at 301-588-5390.