What’s separates a barnyard animal from someone lacking professional etiquette?
Access to e-mail.
I hate unprofessionalism.
There’s no reason for it. Being professional boils down to two things: having basic fucking manners and learning the difference between an e-mail between friends and an e-mail between colleagues. Professionalism isn’t something you learn in a classroom. While someone can teach a course on work place etiquette, each work place is different and applying that etiquette is learned during a crash course otherwise known as the first couple of months on the job. You learn by example, good and bad.
Being that 100% of my job deals with the public, I’ve had the pleasure of polishing my good professional behavior on almost exclusively examples of bad professional behavior. Being that I work for a non-profit, the number of unprofessional individuals vs. professionals that I encounter on a daily basis is disproportionately high.
The root of the problem, most of the time at least, is the misconception that non-profits are not real businesses thus their employees probably aren’t professional. The problem people I deal with fall into two categories: Those who think that their unprofessional behavior is exclusively ok for interacting with non-profits and those who don’t even know that their behavior is unprofessional. I’m not sure which one is worse. Some of these people are managers. Some of these people own businesses. Whether they are legitimitate businesses is irrelevant. They own and operate that business and some idiot gave them the license to do so.
What is most frustrating to me about dealing with unprofessional trolls is that I have to continue being professional while dealing with them because that’s what being professional is about: maintaining composure while dealing with what can only be described as the professional equivalent of a burning pile of trash: it stinks, it’s out of control and you want someone else to take care of it so you can go to happy hour. While I am smiling and nodding on the outside, in the face of unprofessional adversary, I am envisioning myself responding as one of these two characters would.
Joan has established herself as someone not to fuck with. Always a lady, never a pushover, always professional. Joan might be a woman in a male-dominated 1960s world, but she doesn’t take anyone’s shit. She doesn’t even have to speak; it’s the way she looks at someone. You know and they know that something offensive has taken place and Joan doesn’t like it. Joan’s look as the potential to melt faces as if battery acid was thrown on them.
While some bitch is trying to lowball me with a bad idea that she thinks she can use to take advantage of my organization I am thinking to myself: “My boobs are bigger than yours. Also, I am smarter than you. I don’t have time for this. Come back when you have an idea that is in the best interest of this organization. Also, come back with an idea that is original. Actually, just don’t come back, I don’t like you.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Ari is just the type of person I don’t want to deal with. He’s aggressive. Loud. Pushy. He will get his way and he’s going to tell you up front he’s going to get his way and you know he will. He is almost never professional but he can get away with it. What I’d like to do is get away with what he does: react inappropriately to a situation that is not in my favor.
I’ve come up with a running list of red-flags that immediately categorizes a relationship between me and a individual as one that will inevitable board the fail train headed for Fuck You township, population: 1. Using this process, I have never been wrong. Not once. Not now. Not ever. Why? Because this person lacks the social etiquette that precedes good professional behavior: good fucking manners.
The below points outline deeply offensive professional behavior for which there is no excuse, some specific to the work I do, but mostly these are just generally offensive.
- Poor e-mail etiquette which includes, but is not limited to the following:
- USE OF ALL CAPS- is your computer broken? Is this a ransom note? Are you a serial killer? Oh, none of the above? Are you yelling at me? (Unless you’re my mom the answer better be no). Great, then press that fucking caps lock and rewrite that e-mail.
- lack of capitalization, particularly for names, particularly for their own; this person can’t even respect themselves by capitalizing their own name.
- Short hand in all of its forms-this is not a text, it’s an e-mail.
- The use of LOL or haha, particularly in and introductory e-mail.
- The use of emoticons at any point, but particularly in an introductory e-mail; exceptions made for colleagues who you may also consider as acquaintances and co-workers who you do not hate.
- Use of any font color other than black or a variation on navy blue unless it is part of your official e-mail signature- immediate disqualifiers that lead me to believe you don’t intend on me or anyone for that matter taking you seriously ever: pink, yellow, red.
- Excessively elaborate e-mail signatures which may or may not be more than one color and feature any of the following abnormally large cursive writing, a photo that is not a company logo, a self-photo, corny quotes that may or may not be related to the work that you do. Name, phone number, e-mail company name, company website. BOOM. That simple.
- Excessive use of font enhancers: italics, underlines, double underlines. Who uses double underlines? Someone who wants to get your attention for the wrong reasons. Are you asking me to do something or demanding me to do something? Translation is lost with excessive font enhancers.
- Varying font size- this isn’t your Twitter feed, so select all and format that shit.
- Excessive punctuation. One exclamation point. Fifteen exclamation points. The distance between the two defines the difference between someone who is excited and someone who is cycling manic.
- Poor verbal communication
- It’s one thing to get nervous on the phone and screw up. It happens, I’ve done it, but there’s a difference between that and the below.
- Leaving lengthy voicemails that detail the conversation you intend to have with me later in a rambling fashion and leaving the phone number at the end of the message as such: “callmebackat81855520crrrrrr”
- Making initial contact via cell phone while driving, eating, in the presence of screaming children or talking parrots or while in an area of poor service. If the call was so important you would’ve done it an appropriate time in which these factors are a non-issue. I once had a woman actually call me with her parrot squawking in the background. She went as far to point it out and ask “Can you hear him? He wants me to get off of the phone. He’s so funny!” I want you to get off of the phone, lady.
- Instead of scheduling a call, the offender will cold-call, ask if you have a moment, making the assumption that you have more than a minute and then proceed to take up 45 minutes of your time. And then schedule a meeting to discuss “in length”.
- Calling before 9AM or scheduling calls before 9AM, with the exception of those who are in a different time zone. Nothing is that important before 9AM.
- Leaving more than one voicemail in a span of one day (not including phone tag situations). It’s never necessary unless you get cut off by my voicemail system before you have a chance to leave your name or phone number.
- If the individual willingly and proudly provides you with a company website that looks like it was created circa 1996, this is someone who is likely going to continue sending you e-mails in all caps.
- Websites are expensive, but tough shit. I have no reason to take you seriously if the highlight of your website is clipart graphics.
- No-showing for a meeting
- Calling a week later to reschedule almost more offensive than the actual no-show. I’ve actually had this happen to me. More than once.
- Also, do not expect me to know who you are. I’ve already forgotten your name and deleted your essence from my brain space. I’ve had people actually get offended at the fact that I didn’t remember them. Barn. Animal.
- Showing up late for a meeting and not calling or rescheduling
- The best kind are those who show up late and still want the full hour that was committed to them 45 minutes prior. No. I committed an hour to you, an hour ago. You get a brochure, some flyers and the gift of my acknowledgment.
- Planning poorly and making it everyone else’s problem
- This type of offender lives by the creed “My lack of planning constitutes an emergency on your part.”
- This individual will approach with an idea that is not only outrageous but needs to be executed in a period of time that can only be achieved by a time machine
- The offender will engage in or display one or all of the following of behaviors to ensure he gets his way: making veiled, outright, and/or empty threats (usually all three), inability to accept realistic expectations, asking to speak to your supervisor in an attempt to embarrass you or make a nonexistent complaint, attempted use of guilt, determining what your priorities are and giving ultimatums that make no sense.
As I said, this is a running list and since my tolerance level borders on nonexistent, I add to it frequently. What are your unprofessional behavior red flags? What blatant errors in professional etiquette, specific to your line of work or not, offends you most?