Good habits matter in PR industry
Article by Jacqueline Arnold @ TwentyTwo13 (6 August 2023)
One of my earliest recollections about kindergarten and primary one is being taught the polite way to request to leave the classroom to use the washroom.
In our day, we were taught to first raise our hand in class, and then ask politely, “Teacher, may I please go to the toilet?”, or “Teacher, may I please be excused?”. Teachers never ever said no.
It was always a yes, but we still went through the formality of requesting permission to leave the classroom. It’s the polite thing to do.
This was also very good training for knowing the difference between the words ‘can’, and ‘may’. ‘Can’ is the (physical) ability to perform a task, while ‘may’ is seeking permission. So, being physically able, I could walk out of the classroom, but I needed the teacher’s permission to leave the room.
Thanks to Millennials and Gen Z, the words ‘can’ and ‘may’ are no longer part of the vocabulary. These two words have been replaced with ‘I need’. For example, “I need to take the day off”, and “I need to go to the clinic tomorrow morning, so I’ll be late coming into the office”. They no longer ask permission; they merely make a statement.
The other word missing from their vocabulary is ‘sorry’. When they’ve made a mistake, Gen Z (interns and fresh graduates) merely inform their supervisor or superior in a matter-of-fact manner of the mistake and coolly shrug their shoulders, or stick their tongue out (like a two-year-old). No apology. No remorse shown. I chalk it up to a generation that feels entitled.
They also seem to think there’s an invisible maid to clean up after them around the office, when they can clearly see that there isn’t one. Or that after using the last bit of toilet roll, the fresh roll is going to magically jump from the cabinet into the dispenser. I mean, will it kill you to be considerate and replace the roll? Do you have to be reminded repeatedly?
Which leaves me wondering what they were taught in school, or at home, for that matter. I’m aware that good manners isn’t a subject in school and university, and neither are discipline and etiquette. Good manners, good habits, and having consideration for others should be inculcated at home and reinforced in school. Where did we go wrong, and how can this be rectified?
Being the eternal optimist, I believe that its never too late. ‘As long as there is life, there’s hope’, goes the adage.
So, the rest of us (Generations X and Y) take the trouble to point out things to interns, which is just common courtesy to us, but they find them eye-opening.
Simple things, like informing colleagues when they’re leaving the office at the end of the day, or asking teammates if there’s anything urgent that needs to be done before they leave.
My concern is that good manners, showing consideration for others, and generally being helpful, is a basic trait of a good public relations (PR) professional. So, if a PR student or graduate is oblivious to it, what will the future hold for them and this profession, which my peers and I are so dedicated to? It’s quite a scary thought.