Good Manners More Important Than Financial Results

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Source of picture: www.theage.com.au

By John Richardson

A good friend of mine, working for a Singapore-based chemical company, recently had a discussion about a new office seating plan with her company’s human (????) resources manager.

“I have decided not to sit you next to xxxxx because, as both of you are so fat, you won’t fit into the space we’ve got available,” she was told. I told a former colleague about how I was adopting a child a few years ago, to which the colleague responded: “What’s the point of that?”

These are true stories, I am afraid, which help make me think the world is getting ruder, or more stupid, perhaps, particularly when I am in a bleak mood. The declining standard of driving sends me potty, whether it’s taxi drivers in Beijing deliberately accelerating toward pedestrians, or the terrible waste of yellow paint in Singapore, where yellow-box junctions are hardly ever clear of traffic.

But it’s amazing how manners change when money’s at stake – for example, the graciousness and charm of a group of polyolefin traders I met up with a couple of weeks ago. They were very busy networking with potential customers and propagating the story, maybe in an attempt to convince a gullible journalist, that all was well with the China market.

And then you go to a different level, to that of an effective general manager, vice president or upwards. One of my hobbies is to stand back and observe how well they charm their way across a room full of conference delegates. I have rated the performances of senior chemical company executives in just these circumstances over the last decade on a scale of one to 10 and keep a private record of all the scores.

Take this even further – to the level of China’s government. Just as every word of Fed statements is studied, so have recent comments by top Beijing officials on efforts to cool the economy down. As much analysis seems to be going into how these words are being expressed as to their actual meaning, for example, how demeanour indicates ability to cope with potential crises.

Perhaps the real test of strength and depth of character should be an assessment of how company executives at all levels behave out of the spotlight. We could fit hidden cameras to their cars and observe how well they drive to and from work. If they fail to come up to the mark they should be sacked, no matter how good their last set of quarterly results.

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