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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Where Have All the Manners Gone?

Dear Sue: Has civilized, well-mannered life in the business world (as we used to know it) taken a nose-dive? Never have I seen such a breach of manners and etiquette as I have in recent months.

Recently, I made a beautiful adult-sized quilt for a client. I did not receive a thank-you note. I gave a book to another client who had a serious operation and is recovering; no response. I referred business to another colleague and never received a thank-you note or phone call.

I am very disturbed at this behavior. Is this the new corporate etiquette? I know one does not give gifts or perform acts of kindness for the sole purpose of receiving an acknowledgment, but since when is it acceptable not to write a thank-you note? I hope folks out there see this and it reinforces what should be the "basics" in simple, good manners--both in professional and personal life.


Sue Says: The rules of etiquette haven't changed, people have. You have every right to expect a thank you when you have done something for someone.

Are you certain your gifts were received? Are you sure that the colleague who didn't acknowledge the business referral is aware that the referral came from you? You might want to follow up with these people before writing them off as inconsiderate.

Whenever you give someone something that cannot be returned or exchanged you run the risk of giving a gift that will not be used or appreciated. While a handmade quilt is a thoughtful gift, do you have any idea if it is something that the person you made it for can use or will like? Unless you checked with that person first, you may think you are doing something that will be appreciated, but in reality are burdening someone with something they donít want or need.

Donít get me wrongóit is the thought that counts, but just make sure you are being thoughtful by giving gifts that will be appreciated and enjoyed. Books are highly personal, and unless you know of a book someone wants, a gift certificate to a book store might be a better option. If you do choose to give a book you selected, be sure to include a gift receipt so it can be exchanged.

Iíll never forget the time I referred business to someone I had worked with who send me a beautiful floral arrangement thanking me for the referral. I didnít expect anything in return, and was surprised to be thanked in such a way. I am more than happy to continue to send referrals to that company, not because I expect more flowers but because I know they appreciate my efforts.

I understand your frustration; you appear to be a thoughtful person who reaches out and gives to others who cannot understand the lack of a response. While there is no excuse for poor manners, it may help if you try to understand that although these people didnít take the time to formally thank you, your efforts have not been in vain and likely are appreciated. Many people are overwhelmed with all they have to do and although they have good intentions, they struggle to stay afloat. Writing you a thank you note may be on their list of things to do, but keeps getting pushed aside due to the other more pressing matters at hand, Donít give up just yetóyou might still get the thanks you deserve.

I hope that your plea for a return to etiquette will reach the people who need the reminder, but don't hold your breath waiting.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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