A terrible scrabbling and clattering woke me at first light this morning. Throwing back the ragged, moth- and rat-eaten curtains of my hovel in glamorous, downtown Stone Street, who should I behold, strutting proudly to and fro on the rotting windowsill but Balthazar, Lord McKelvey’s favourite, giant raven, a creature of glossy magnificence and great cunning.
Naturally, I opened the rickety sash and in he surged, spitting a small, intricately folded, unbleached, sustainably sourced, 155gsm slip of cream-laid, wove from his cruel beak.
“WAKE! WORK! KRAARK! WORK! NOW! SLAVE! AAAARK! CREE! WAIT! REPLY!”, quoth the raven, fixing me with the jet-black jewel of his one malevolent eye.
Hurriedly, numb fingers fumbling, I unfolded the paper to reveal the magnificent crest of the McKelveys, azure with a white bend sinister on a field of jalfrezi, crowned with a teetering flagon and flanked by armorial hippopotamuses and otters.
Beneath the coat of arms, these words had been written in a fine, manly hand that I recognised with an almost girlish pang of delight:
You worthless cur! I need a column on the importance of good manners as we struggle onward through the despicable, self-interested fudge of ‘freedom’ unleashed upon us by the cretins who ‘govern’ us! My router is down, hence Balthazar. Ms Frobisher is exquisitely torturing the internet provider as I write so I expect to be back online within the hour. Respond via email with your column at your earliest convenience, if not sooner.
I fumbled on the floor amongst the crusts and empty gin bottles to find a stub of HB pencil with which I carefully wrote ‘To hear is to obey’ on the reverse of the terse epistle. Clumsily refolded it and held it out gingerly towards Balthazar the raven.
I could not stifle a shriek as it was snatched cruelly from my fingers by cruel, black, scaly talons, drawing a meagre jewel of blood.
“KRAARK! SLAVE! WORK! NOW! KRAAAAARK!”, quoth the raven, as he rose in a powerful whirlwind of darkness in the centre of the room, beating his vast wings, scattering precious family photographs and treasured tschoschkes, before swooping through the open window and out into the cerulean blue of the morning.
A single, inky feather was borne to and fro on the air before falling gently onto the packing case that I use as a desk. I picked it up and ran its glossy smoothness between my bleeding finger and thumb.
So here we go:
I think what the editor of this esteemed organ is after is a thing about how we should all continue to wear our masks in crowded spaces, sanitise our hands assiduously and generally continue to behave as if we give a damn about our fellow humans, despite the half-arsed, yelps of self-contradictory instruction from our ‘leaders’.
I have no plans to go disco dancing among the fleshpots of Brighton. I shall not be attending any pop concerts or illegal raves, and will not be a spectator at any major sporting events, more’s the pity, so, instead I shall be writing about good manners in my very narrow corner of the business and hoping that my efforts will pass muster with my terrifying yet noble editor.
Good manners have opened doors for me everywhere from Alphabet City to Pahar Ganj.
Why is it that no-one teaches our community of headhunters how this works?
When I am contacted, inevitably on LinkedIn, as I am several times a month, by a headhunter who, in their anxious scrolling through that estimable platform has imagined some congruence between the information on my profile and the ghastly role they are so lazily seeking to fill, I inevitable reply with basic courtesy, usually declining to take the conversation further. The response? Nothing. Silence. Occasionally I will inquire what daily rate is on offer. The response? Nothing. Silence. Or I may ask whether the role is within IR35. The response? Nothing. Silence. I usually say ‘thank you for thinking of me and do please bear me in mind for any future, more appropriate posts’. The response? Nothing. Silence.
The role of the poor, beleaguered recruitment person is surely to build a network of contacts over time that will enable him or her to ‘reach out’ (like the Four Tops) to the right candidate at the right time, to follow industry trends, stalk the message boards and forums and develop an intelligent understanding of the needs and desires of both clients and candidates, bringing them together and thereby earning their preposterous cut.
For every headhunter who has the courtesy to respond there are dozens who simply move on to the next unlikely candidate, assuming that the job is about quantity of leads rather than quality. If I applied this principle to my business I would be out of work before you could say ‘knife’.
I understand that these people are the slaves of late-stage capitalism and that they are desperate and hungry, but, for the love of Satan, do they not realise that if they turn themselves into less than competent web-crawlers, that they will be replaced within months by slightly more competently web-crawling algorithms or dedicated AI?
So, better manners from the headhunting community please.
I must proceed with caution here, as I would never even playfully nibble the hand that feeds me.
And of course, every client of Spoon Creative Ltd is a model of politeness and good business practice BUT
1. If you are sent some work, why not acknowledge receipt of it?
2. If asked a question germane to the progress of the task in hand, why not answer it?
3. If arranging a call or a video conference, why not suggest a couple of dates and times rather than assuming that 6.30am on a Tuesday or 6pm on a Friday are as convenient for everyone else as they are for you?
4. If you ask for a quote and it’s too high, why not explain this to the person you have asked to quote?
5. This is madness I know, but once the work is completed, why not share the finished executions with the people who worked on them?
This all sounds a little peevish but I do know that the people who behave well in the world of business command greater respect and therefore better work from the broader business community.
I have lost count of the number of times I have written about creating ‘better business partnerships’ but have rarely seen anything other than egregious and blatant self-interest at work.
And this is where manners matter. Good manners cost nothing, perhaps a little effort, but nothing of business value.
If I offered you a ‘Software As A Service’ proposition that FOR NO COST delivered smoother, happier, better business relationships, enhanced reputation and increased returns, you would probably be interested in finding out more.
Yet in the service of an outmoded, frankly American, notion of hard-nosed business practice, hundreds of organisations are alienating clients, customers, suppliers and the world at large.
I have written elsewhere in these columns about how stupid it is of Internet Providers, Airlines, Utility Companies and the Government to treat the general public with contempt. Yet the lack of good manners displayed within the business community is, perhaps, stupider, perhaps even stupidmost.
I could go on to talk about the frosty front of house people who make the GP’s receptionist seem gushingly sentimental, or the crass self-publicity that passes for conversation in many quarters, I could freeze your blood with the scornful attitude to marketing people that prevails in the C-Suites of the land, but generally, things would go better for everyone if they could learn to display a little common courtesy*.
After all, good manners are free and they really could make you money.
*The author would like to thank Lord McKelvey, Richard Cook, Trevor Cheal, Dan Anderson, Jonathan Harman, Ian Henderson, Dan Hyde, Justin Mould, Alan Fender, David Moore, Vonnie Alexander, Stephen Haggarty, Paul Turner, Harj Murria, Jane Stead, Jasmine Gerrard, Sophie Obert, Paul Sumner, Frédéric De Mévius, Alexander De Wit, Rob House, Maria Michael, Mark Fiddes, Lucian Camp, Omaid Hiwazi, George Ames, Gillian James, Chris Read, Elizabeth Penceval, Sofia Drummond, Vincent Nolan, Spencer Stratford, Alastair Waldron, Marlon Powell, Louise Mortimer, David Winterbourne, Kate Flather, Joe Clift, Louise Pendleton, Dan Levy, Alex Morrison, Lyndsay Mc Morrow, Merry Baskin, Charity Charity, Michael Alabaster and ‘Spanish Dave’.