Jun 12, 1995

There is simply no excuse for rudeness— in the A/E/P business, or in any business for that matter. Rude people turn off, or even worse, visibly upset clients, contractors, vendors, consultants, and employees. I like to believe that, as an industry, we are better than most on this count. Yet, I see or hear examples of rude behavior from people in our business almost daily. Here are some typical problem areas where rudeness rears its ugly head in the A/E/P and environmental consulting business, as well as what should be done to correct them: Outgoing telephone calls. What is it with some people who routinely use a secretary to place outgoing phone calls for them? Are they unable to push the numbers on the keypad? Or, is their time so valuable that they cannot be bothered with details like dialing and asking to speak with the person they want to talk with? Then, once they get you on the phone, you are supposed to wait for them to be tracked down and actually get on the phone. This is always rude. It says to the person who is being called, “My time is worth more than yours.” Leaving telephone messages. Another example of rudeness related to telephone calls occurs when people leave messages such as, “Call me at 2:45.” Do they think you have nothing else to do but serve them? What if you can’t call at 2:45 because you have another commitment? The message ought to be, “Try to call me after 2:45 today, if you can. Otherwise, call me any time tomorrow.” Incoming telephone calls. Why is it that you could call some companies day after day for weeks, months, or even years, and every time you call is like the first time? The receptionist/switchboard operator never remembers your name or your company’s name. It’s one thing to treat a consultant or vendor this way, but it’s really sad when the caller is a significant client. I have heard of cases when a firm’s best client was treated this way repeatedly, the firm ended up losing the client because of it. Receptionists/switchboard operators should have a complete client list at their disposal— and be able to recognize clients who call frequently. RFPs. How do you feel when you get asked to submit a detailed fee proposal on a project and are given three days to respond? Or how about those RFPs with accompanying explanatory information that has been Xeroxed so many times it’s illegible? There’s no excuse for either situation. And until A/E/P and environmental consulting firms confront “proposal requesters,” rest assured they won’t change. There’s no reason any firm should be treated this way. Meetings. Have you ever been a subconsultant to another firm and been invited to a project-related meeting at the prime’s office? Why is it that so often they make you wait 30 or 45 minutes for the meeting to start because one or more of their people has a crisis to attend to? It’s rude. Few things are more inconsiderate or communicate to the folks who have to wait that their time isn’t worth anything. Meeting start times should be adhered to— period. Especially meetings with clients or project team members. New employees. How would you feel if you showed up for work on a new job and no one was expecting you? Your new employer had no desk, no phone, no computer, and no idea that you were even coming? Well, I can tell you this is a regular occurrence in A/E/P and environmental firms, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s rude. There’s no excuse for not being ready for a new employee. “Human resources” or “administration” in a firm should take responsibility for ensuring that this never happens, because it’s not only rude, it’s instantly demotivating to the new employee. Delegated tasks. How do you like it when someone leaves you a note that says “do this,” without so much as a simple “please” at the beginning, or “thanks” at the end of the request? Even those folks whose entire job it is to serve your needs (such as an administrative or executive assistant) should not be treated this way. It makes them feel as if they have to give up some self-respect when they work for someone who treats them this way, even if they regularly receive good evaluations and raises. This type of rudeness doesn’t help anyone— least of all, the requester. And one final thought for those of you in the South who believe that this type of behavior is limited to us in the Northeast: Don’t kid yourself— you cannot generalize on how rude or polite someone will be based on where they are located. I have been treated rudely in the South, the North, the East, and the West; conversely, I have been treated well in all of those places. We all need to do our part to “stamp out rudeness,” especially when it is happening in our own firms. Originally published 6/12/1995

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