Posts Tagged ‘manners’

Art Imitates Life, Life Imitates LinkedIn: Online Citizenship

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Most of us in business or other organisations belong to LinkedIn, and many of us participate in discussion groups related to our fields and areas of specialisation and interest. Furthermore, marketing and promotions professionals these days tell us that it is extremely important to have an online presence and profile, and though there are other alternatives like Brazen Careerist, LinkedIn is the professional social networking standard.

Accordingly, like most people I know, I belong to many LinkedIn groups, which in my case cover areas like organisational psychology, psychometrics, creativity, arts, advertising and HR. Like most people, I subscribe to a few good professional blogs, and through these come upon many links to other blogs and articles. It’s an expanding world, and I’m both personally and professionally grateful to be exposed daily to so much information and food for thought.

I have always been interested in many different areas, and so my professional interests and reading reflect this.  Lately, because I’ve started to notice some patterns in myself and others, I’ve begun to realise that my online life is very similar to my real life.

Online, the contacts I collect seem to be like my friends and associates in real life: they are interesting, varied, creative, mostly outspoken, confident, leaders and thought influencers, and from many walks of life and professional areas. The things they say to me are starting to be like things people in real life say to me.

More importantly though, I’ve started to realise that the virtual, online professional world needs to maintain standards and etiquette, just like in the real world. Just as I do in real life, I seem to spend a lot of my time being on guard for and smoothing over potential conflicts. The online world of professional social net-working is a place where all cultures come together and connect instantly, where the nuance of the written word is often difficult to understand and subtleties are sometimes misunderstood, and the different time zones across the world make the time of day an ingredient in the way we communicate and what we say.

Online, even in the professional sphere of LinkedIn (as opposed to Facebook for instance) there are bullies, cranks, show-offs, posers, extraverts, introverts, casual people, funny people, serious people, formal people and many, many others. Just like real life. In real life though, you can look someone in the eye and hear the tone in their voice and judge their body language.

So I’m beginning to think that we need to proactively think of ourselves as online citizens, with responsibilities to be civil and not too dominating in discussions but to have something to say and keep discussions going, aware and empathetic of differences like race and culture, and to be particularly careful to try to pick up verbal nuance and humour, and not to over-react to apparent slights but to publicly object to online dominance, bullying or impoliteness.

A year or so ago my sons made a short film called Art Imitates Life, Life Imitates Facebook for Kino, Sydney. It should come as no surprise to me to find that the same principle applies to LinkedIn.

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

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NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

Leadership & Good Manners

Thursday, November 4th, 2010


An email I received out of the blue recently from a person I’ve never met left me reeling for a couple of days, and started me thinking about manners in the modern workplace. With all the promotion of leadership courses and discussions about leadership strategies and characteristics these days, I realised we never hear mention any more of manners. And yet, if there’s one thing I’ve always noticed about leaders, it’s that they are always polite and gracious.

Manners are the small social rules and conventions that hold us all together. They “oil the cogs” of all our relationships and keep things running smoothly in organisations, families and personal relationships. My recent experience got me thinking about the characteristics of leadership, like good manners, that we should all, and probably do, recognise, but that are not “sold” or commonly taught anymore, most certainly not as part of a quick-fix package or course on the internet. A leader, and anyone else, should know that good manners stop unpleasantness and misunderstanding from happening, and bad manners get in the way of things running smoothly, and are therefore costly, both in human and financial terms.

It seems to me that “Leadership” is a bit like “Emotional Intelligence” (or poetry or art or charisma) in that we all recognise it, but it’s very hard to define. And, like Emotional Intelligence, Leadership seems be subject to fashion. When I was a school student, teachers were always talking about whether we had “leadership qualities” or not, but when I was a teacher myself, the prevailing wisdom frowned on anything thought to be anti-egalitarian. Now, in the workplace at least, the pendulum has swung again, and “Leadership” seems to be a hot (and lucrative) topic. But even if, as human beings, we can all recognise leadership, can we really define it simply, or market it?

I think perhaps we should go back to our deeper, more personal, psychological understanding of how we recognise, and indeed follow, leaders, so that we can learn valuable lessons from them, rather than thinking we can package a simple formula and sell it (complete with coloured circular charts – I’ve googled!). Furthermore, it’s probably a good idea to learn to recognise a leader, rather than following some jumped up “wannabe” who yells loudest, and who’ll lead us over a cliff in a crisis.

Understanding leadership is like understanding anything, its complex, subtle, sometimes subjective, and requires good observation and thinking. Developing leadership requires time and wisdom. One of our clients recently said that she’s noticed that real leaders are always calm in a crisis. I have noticed that real leaders are unpretentious, gracious and polite. What else does a good leader really have? : usually charisma, charm, often patience, and they inspire confidence and respect (and there are lots of other characteristics).

The point is, that leaders, by definition, have to have characteristics that make people want to follow them. In other words, their characteristics and conduct give them influence. I’m very sure that none of us want to follow impolite people who make us angry, insulted and incensed. So on a personal, and a business level, it doesn’t make any sense to have bad manners.

I think the conclusion might be, if we want to get to first base as a leader, we’ll have to begin with good manners!

Lynette Jensen

*This is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the opinion, beliefs or policy of the company