Originally created 08/30/97

Manners make a difference



Good manners translate into career advancement, not just social niceties.

Augusta-area etiquette consultants say interest is growing among business people and business students who want to gain an edge on the competition. It's no longer women asking for advice about manners, either, they say.

And the consultants have found new business in Augusta.

Business people know customers and superiors evaluate them by their behavior on the golf course and dinner table as well as in the board room.

"If you're at a big dinner and you're very sloppy, it's a reflection on you," said Becca Phelan, an Augusta stockbroker. As president of the Augusta Executive Women's Golf League, she arranged for Augusta consultant Elaine Clark to teach members about golfing protocol because so many deals are struck on the links.

Ms. Clark, an Augusta native who recently returned to her hometown, said people suspect poor manners are often most pronounced on the golf course and at dinner. But the handshake is the first clue, she said.

Manners show in personal introductions, conversation and even telephone habits, the experts said.

Putting a caller on hold in the middle of a conversation while answering another call is rude, said Mildred Robinson, owner of Mr. and Mrs. Manners in Evans, which opened earlier this year.

"You put value on one person over another person, and that's impolite," she said.

Good manners are simply a few guidelines to help everyone feel at ease and respected, she said. People hire and do business, she said, with people they like being with.

Savvy job seekers realize that good manners can be an effective way to differentiate themselves from other applicants, according to Diane Fennig, director of Augusta State University's Career Center. When two people with similar resumes and grades compete for the same job, manners can be the deciding factor.

"One of them has better social skills than the other. You tend to hire the one you can take to lunch with vendors or clients," she said.

A thank-you note, for example, can make a lasting impression. Ms. Fennig still gets comments from a man in Chicago who received on from her.

With single-parent households and two-income households, parents are often too busy to teach children about proper manners, according to Ms. Clark. "We lost that feeling of being special, of people treating us special," she said.