Noticed the etiquette guides popping up everywhere? Who needs them most?

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Have you noticed the modern etiquette guides popping up left and right? Who needs them the most?

Monocle released a video manifesto designed to promote “a more dignified relationship with all things digital” (Monocle)

WELCOME TO OUR etiquette guide era.

— As strategist Alexi Gunner observed, tastemakers like Monocle and Dazed magazines, pop culture site The Cut, and even Netflix have all recently felt the need to serve up some sort of guide to manners.

— Why? Have we all become that bad?

THE CUT EXPLAINS away their 194-point list by saying that “the ways we socialize and date, commute and work are nearly unrecognizable from what they were three years ago.”

— But, like, are they?

MUCH OF THE Cut’s advice would have been valid pre-pandemic, or even pre Internet.

— Advice like “while on a date, if you find you’re talking a lot, ask yourself, when was the last time I asked a question?” or “you may callously cancel almost any plans up until 2 p.m.” or “when another human is present, don’t talk to your animal in the private voice you use when [you’re] alone together” all seem pretty timeless.

MONOCLE, TASTEFUL MONOCLE, has a “code of digital decency” that asks folks “to turn their phones to silent, and refrain from listening to video clips with the volume turned up.”

— But people played music in public in the battery powered transistor radio and portable stereo eras, too.

— Monocle also tells us that “hotel lobbies… are not the place for conducting Zoom calls” —as if people haven’t been having way-too-loud cell phone conversations in public for decades.

— And then there’s tablets, or as Monocle puts it, “something children should take when they’re ill, and not devices to be tethered to in a serene restaurant setting.”

— But, who does that actually bother?

OK, WHAT’S THE point here?

— I can’t help but wonder if all of these etiquette guides are vestiges of a more boring, more stratified, and more repressed/repressive past and, more importantly, if many of these guides are totally missing the mark.

PLOT TWIST: IS it actually the most experienced, most senior members of society who need an etiquette refresher?

— Hear me out.

— According to Insider.com, Gen Z workers are bored and burnt out.

— The percentage of folks under 35 who report being “engaged with” their jobs dropped from 37% to 33%, the lowest level since 2011.

— Think about that: 2/3 of younger workers aren’t engaged with their jobs.

— That’s not just bad and sad for the folks working those jobs, it’s also bad for the companies they work for—not to mention the customers of those companies.

FORTUNATELY, THERE’S A clear fix for this. Gen Z is literally telling all of us what it is.

— They report a plummeting sense of: (a) feeling cared about; (b) having someone who encourages their development; (c) having opportunities to learn and grow; and (d) believing that their opinions count at work.

— I’ve previously written about how people entering the workforce today are rethinking the age old tradition of “paying your dues,” and how that is sparking friction with older workers.

— Examining who was right led me down a surprisingly deep rabbit hole.

— But what we can all agree on is the fact that a more fulfilled workforce would logically be a more productive one, too.

— And here’s the good news for managers and executives: adding what Gen Z reports is missing from their work lives is totally free. (Though it will cost time and brainpower.)

DON’T GET ME wrong: I know managing is hard.

— It’s a full time job, in addition to everything else that managers have on their to do lists. Managing others also requires a lot more mental energy than many expect.

— But a little bit of clarity, courtesy, and communication can go a very long way.

BOTTOM LINE: THE etiquette guides making the rounds right now might be misplaced…

…especially if they’re presented as advice from more experienced, more senior people, to younger ones.

— One of the most elegant definitions of etiquette I came across while writing this piece is this: “The purpose of etiquette is to show respect for other people.”

— Respect for others has been called the most fundamental principle in all of ethics—and indeed all of life.

— However, respect for others is a work and business hack, too.

— Respect means caring about your employees, and encouraging their development. Respect means giving them opportunities to learn and grow. Respect is letting them know that their opinions count.

— In other words, respect is all of the specific things that Gen Z report is lacking in their workplaces.

— Investing time, energy, and brainpower bringing respect back to work will pay everyone back, big time.

— To paraphrase Insider.com, if Gen X and boomer executives are unable (or worse, unwilling) to do the hard yards of making respect like this a core part of everyone’s job description, it's not their Gen Z and millennial staff who need etiquette lessons… it's them.


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Written by Jon Kallus. Any feedback? Simply reply.

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