Taste, intelligence and manners

Taste, intelligence and manners

When it comes to people, business tends to be rather confused – this is a main reason why we feel it’s important to have discussions around the topic of authenticity. This time we have picked manners to demonstrate this confusion.

This may sound surprising at first glance, since it was business that coined the term  “professional behavior” after all;  something that evokes connotations with manners. We must notice however that even “professional behavior”, which is just a pale reflection of manners in the original sense, has undergone an intense process of decline.

When the first industrialists came to the scene, gentlemanly behavior was a highly valued, deeply understood and of course intimately experienced trait. This was a time when agreements were honored based on one’s word and consequently the proportion of lawyers in relation to the general population was incomparably lower than today.

These early players came from a social environment where superiority and not quantity served as a measure. In such a milieu manners was an honest, direct and consistent manifestation of values, or, on a deeper level, of a world-view that recognized taste as a guiding principle.

In the course of a process of decline, accompanied with the rise of “quantitative values”, manners have become mannerisms, which is precisely what “professional behavior” denotes. Mannerisms are taken up by people who lack the world-view and corresponding values, at the very least the orientation, that provide the foundation for manners. Thus professional behavior is always temporary and it’s only a question of time before the vulgus manifests itself – unavoidably.

Without conscious individual efforts to counter this decline, the standards of professional behavior will continue to drop. At where we stand today vulgarity is wide spread and celebrated both in written and verbal communications of all kinds; but vulgarity is not constrained to foul language alone – it has become the style of behavior both for organizations and individuals.

Think about the disrespect for privacy (by telemarketers, employers, facebook, google, governments, etc.), the incessant, senseless and mindless activities, the tyrannical suppression of thinkers who disagree with the majority, general ill-willed behavior (just two of thousands of examples: “cities” towards their citizens (especially in Eastern Europe), the majority of telcos and banks towards their customers), the transactional style of interactions – the list is too long to continue.

Fundamental change starts with such small but profound things.

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Laszlo Kovari is a writer and the founder of Prakhsis, an organizational development company that has been a pioneer in the concept of organic organizations. As a "consigliere" he has worked with founders, managers, CEOs and board members at startups, mid-sized companies and some of the Fortune 500 across North America and Europe. Laszlo is based in Prague, Czech Republic, supporting clients across Europe.

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