Bad Manners are Bad for Business

There I was sitting in a meeting that was scheduled ahead of time with someone who is a customer of mine (and for whom I am a customer).

In the middle of our meeting someone walks in and asks “do you have time for me?”. The person I was meeting with said “of course, always” and proceeded to get up and take care of this person, bringing our meeting to a screeching halt.

I sat there stunned!

What kind of person interrupts a scheduled meeting for someone who just walks in unplanned and unannounced?

Here are some of the kinder adjectives I’d use to describe this type of person:


I’d also describe him as having one less customer to worry about since I will not be using his services anymore. It’s ironic that when we were interrupted we were discussing how he’s built his successful business on referrals because he treats his customers so well. Apparently that wonderful treatment does not extend to ALL his customers!

What’s really amazing though, is how many people do this on a regular basis. People will miss meetings or show up very late. They will take phone calls or let people walk into the middle of scheduled meetings. They don’t return phone calls. The list goes on.

This got me thinking about the subject of bad manners and etiquette in business. Here are the questions that crossed my mind as they relate to getting and keeping customers.

-Is it me, or are other people bothered by bad manners in business?
-Do people who behave rudely do so out of ignorance?
-Are bad manners really bad for business?

I did a little research on Google and I found that clearly it’s not just me (Whew! That’s a relief!) Others are indeed bothered by bad manners. So much so that you can buy a book, take a class or even hire a consultant to help you address the problem of bad manners in your business.

According to one study I found (and many informal opinions), a lot of people these days simply do not understand the difference between good and bad manners.

I don’t believe that for a second.

The next time someone does something you consider rude, ask them about it. Not that you have to create a scene, just ask them why they did it. Most will apologize and get a guilty look in their face. I’ve done this many times and it never fails. People know when they’re behaving badly.

The problem is not lack of awareness. The problem is their focus. They are too focused on themselves and their needs to notice how badly they are behaving.

Another easy way to prove this is watch how people treat others differently based on who they are. As a person who has done a lot of selling, I’ve seen this plenty. Some people will go on and on about how great their customer service is. They go overboard for their customers. Then they turn around and treat employees, vendors and salespeople like second-class citizens.

If they didn’t know the difference, why would they treat people differently? They do know the difference. Their problem is they think it’s okay to treat people badly unless they’re trying to get something from them (like a purchase order).

That leaves us with the last question: “Are bad manners bad for business?”

Yes, absolutely. There is not doubt in my mind. Bad manners are bad for any business.

Bad manners will drive away existing customers. They will reduce the inflow of new customers. And bad manners will increase employee turnover while reducing employee performance. Rude behavior makes the workplace a lot less fun and this diminishes employee morale.

I found a survey done by Eticon, Inc. that says 37% of customers would take their business elsewhere if they were confronted with rude or disrespectful service. The survey also found 14.3% of employee time is spent dealing with issues related to rudeness.

Even more important to your business is how people respond to good (defined as respectful) behavior.

As customers, 51% of people surveyed would do more business with a company where they are treated with respect and courtesy. And they said they would tell others about the company. 64% said they would reciprocate the courtesy and would become easier to deal with, thus making it life on the job more fun for employees.

Employees reported similar responses, all of which would contribute to a workplace that is more enjoyable for employees and customers.

Of course, we really don’t need surveys and research to know that bad manners are bad for business. Let’s face it. We call them “bad” manners because that’s what they are.

We all know how lousy it feels when someone is rude or inconsiderate to us. And we know how good it feels when someone is cheerful, honest, accountable, courteous, polite, etc.

The important thing is to remember that rude behavior and bad manners happen every day in many businesses. And it drives away customers. So, take an honest look at your business and ask yourself if there is room for improvement in this area. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to keep your customers coming back for more.

What’s your experience with rude behavior? Have you stopped doing business with a company because of it? Do you think it’s a problem in our businesses or not?