From the times when getting along with people was so important that it got dedicated instructional materials, we found and watched a couple of videos depicting the office etiquette and telephone courtesy. It proved quite an exercise. Comparing manners, habits and expectations throughout the ages never gets old.
So, what were the rules of business communications in the 50’s?
The office etiquette video
Oh my, those times do seem much simpler, in some ways. Of course, people are still people, whatever the times. Not everybody would have looked or behaved as in instructional videos back then. Important issues were not part of the picture, either.
But hearing someone talk about “enjoying your work” or “enjoying the people you are working with” does make a lot of sense, in a comforting manner. While some may see such materials as cliché-istic or narrow-minded, they provided an image of what was considered of common sense in the society at the time.
The rules, or rather recommendations, provided in the video are meant to serve as a starting point. Each could choose to go his (in this case, more like “hers”) direction from there on.
You can watch it with amusement, nostalgia or criticism, but the office etiquette video is still interesting to see.
For example, the instructor opens up the office job course with this: “You’re starting a new career. It can be fun, or it can be hard. It all depends on the way you look at things”.
The telephone courtesy video
In a more theatrical style, the second instructional video set out to show what is right and wrong in phone-based business communications.
As in the first video, one may find it hard not to think about how the employees look like superheroes. Always neat, polite, fresh, un-stressed, calm and generally happy about their lives. They all look like A-grade adults who are willing to focus on their job-related activities and who always find the energy and even the initiative to do it.
Compared with the current state of affairs, the people depicted in these videos all look like as if someone was taking care of them. Meaning that they needn’t worry about how they need to shop, cook, clean, pay bills and generally run around stressed before or after work.
In this context, the characters that yelled, were impolite, incompetent or offensive (the bad examples) were quickly tackled by the majority of professional, polite, in-control employees.
To quote the video: “Good manners please our customers. Bad manners only irritate them” or “The telephone is meant to work for us. The important thing is how to put it to work properly. God telephone manners aren’t difficult, they are easy, natural”
A contemporary exercise
You may look at the way you interact on the phone, after having browsed these videos above. Do you have good telephone manners, or bad ones, for example?
Contemplate and compare. What great things have we added and what did we lose in the process of evolving along quite a few decades?
If you were to merge the best of the present and the past – as seen in the videos, what would that image look like?