Service of Bad Business Behavior

May 12th, 2016

Categories: Bad behavior, Paying Attention, Speaking

I might have been at a rowdy sports event the other evening instead of at the opening of an elegant Manhattan showroom. The lack of respect to the gracious hosts, when they wanted to address their guests, was cringe-inducing.

It started well. The space was expertly designed to enhance a handsome line of hard goods. To celebrate, wine and champagne flowed; wait staff passed hors d’oeuvres made on the spot by a master chef; charming floral bouquets punctuated the room and on entering you could feel the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd. The event was clearly a great success. In addition to the overflow attendance, some guests even looked at the products [instead of at each other]. 

The company is foreign-owned. After they were introduced by an American executive, two marketing people from headquarters welcomed guests and the chairman declared the showroom officially open. I was embarrassed by the way this NY audience behaved. After less than two minutes, the cacophony was such that most couldn’t hear. Guests could have been at a beach picnic talking loud enough to be heard over the roar of an angry ocean. In spite of the brave faces of the speakers, this experience must have been a nightmare. What a welcome to Manhattan.

I think guests owe it to a host, at a business function, to listen to the commercial. They might even learn something! There was a large hallway by the elevator with plenty of room for those who were bursting to talk and didn’t want to disturb the other guests. Not a soul took advantage of it.

I empathize with the hosts. I have produced many events like this for my clients so maybe I am too close to the subject and have unrealistic expectations.

Perhaps the terminally chatty never plan on having to address a similar horde? Maybe they spoke with abandon because they were shell-shocked to see other people as they’ve been hiding behind their texting devices for too long? I can’t offer a reasonable explanation for this behavior. Can you? Is it the exception or the rule?

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12 Responses to “Service of Bad Business Behavior”

  1. David Reich Said:

    You shouldn’t be surprised about bad behavior like this. Rudeness for many has become just a way of life. Narcism — it’s all about me.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    David,

    So would you recommend to clients that they no longer conduct such events, or if they do, that they cannot expect to address the guests for more than 60 seconds–or the time it takes to produce a tweet?

    Or would you post staff in the corners and throughout a large space to ask those who are speaking, when they shouldn’t, to take it outside? So as not to add to the din, hand them a pre-printed note with “Please go outside so we can hear” on it?

  3. Nancy Farrell Said:

    Wow, believe it or not I was just talking about this with a friend this morning! I’ve noticed this at business functions and school functions. My favorite are the people who talk over announcements on the train platform and then wonder aloud why the train isn’t on time! The people who talk in the quiet car of train are precious, too. I have never told these people to be quiet, although I’ve heard others do it. Usually people don’t realize they are in a quiet car and that’s reasonable. We’ve all done it. One time, though, a passenger refused the conductor’s request to take his cell phone conversation to another car. The conductor sheepishly explained to a passenger who had complained that there was nothing he could do if the customer didn’t comply. That’s when I smiled and asked the conductor if it was ok, then, if I started singing my favorite TV show theme at the top of my lungs? It’s a catchy little tune with lots of “La la la’s” in it. The man ended his conversation before I even got a note out. Everyone in the car smiled at each other and we all enjoyed a quiet ride.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Nancy,

    I am giggling envisioning you singing! I can see Julie Bowen, who plays the character Claire Dunphy on “Modern Family” doing this!

    On our train–Metro-North Harlem line–the old-timer conductors were great, even before quiet cars. One told a woman to hang up. The passenger was having a screaming fight on the phone that went on and on and on. She was oblivious to her surroundings. This conductor, now retired, used to tell passengers, “If you have a complaint about another passenger tell me and I will handle it. It’s my job.”

    I was hoping to hear that my experience was the exception, not the rule, and am sad that it even happens at school functions. What’s missing is empathy: would the distracters appreciate silence and attention if they had to address the assemblage?

  5. Nancy Farrell Said:

    I love Claire’s character! I do share some characteristic with her, too. My niece is terrific with people. She’s been known to raise her hand in a room full of adults and smile and sing like a teacher would, “One, two, three, eyes on me!” I’ve also seen tapping on a glass work. People will stop if called out, although sometimes bad behavior is caused by an open bar. That’s just my opinion.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Nancy,

    Well….there was an open wine bar. So then the welcomes should come within the first half hour rather than the first hour.

    I don’t think I could pull off the “eyes on me” but a good one for those who can. I thought that one of the speakers might shout “Sorry for those who were speaking: You just missed the drawing for a $10 thousand Gift Card offered the others! More giveaways to come” and at the end say, “Just joking.”

    I was wracking my brains for what I could do but my shrieking from the other end of the room would have been as rude and distracting as the loud chatter. When the chairman got up to speak, a few did “Shhhh” the others but it wasn’t loud enough for the blabbers to hear. I was in the front and had I moved away to infiltrate the noisy part of the room, it would have looked like I was leaving in the middle of a marketer’s presentation so that wasn’t an option either.

  7. Martha Takayama Said:

    Once again our native rudeness is perfectly demonstrated by denizens of what must have been presumed to be the upper-echelon of New York’s entitled. The timing is difficult, since we have been shedding our manners as well as any charm for a while now, nearing perfection in this endeavor. Manners and courtesies are essentially meant to insure that life functions smoothly, minimizing conflict and unpleasantness. “Excuse me” which can serve so many purposes has become a rare term.

    The degree of narcissism that currently is epidemic in all levels of society make it less and less productive to host well-planned, gracious marketing events. We need first or simultaneously to engage in a campaign for social education and common courtesy with the same diligence used to track the unacceptable behaviour of our political candidates. Eventually the rude and thoughtless may come to understand how unpleasant it is to have their efforts go astray!

  8. hb Said:

    I share your feelings of evident anger at rude, selfish, offensive behavior of guests at events such as this. They repay a generous host for offering them a chance not just to consume top quality food and drink but also, more importantly, a free opportunity to network efficiently, with the ultimate insult — not listening to what he or she has to say.

    The problem is not new, but I suspect it has become both more common and more strident. Thanks to men like Donald Trump, the more obnoxious you are, the more you are admired.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    When politicians speak, the public is quiet until the end of a sound bite at which point they are expected to scream, yell, whistle and clap. Perhaps speakers at business and school events, [in her comment Nancy Farrell mentioned similar rude receptions to speakers at school functions], must create the same kind of give and take [God help us].

    Seriously: Maybe guests should be told that there will be a brief break at X O’clock to meet/hear two marketers and the chairman and are asked to please not speak for those ten minutes or to wait in the hallway until the talk is over.

    As for everyday manners, no matter how late I am I make it a point to hold the door at my office building for anyone behind me and to clearly thank the few who hold the door for me. I notice, when pulling my suitcase on Friday evenings that most grab another door out rather than hold one open for me. Luckily I don’t need the help.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    hb,

    There is a relationship between the thoughtless behavior of rude guests and nasty, snarky, ruthless, below-the-belt, angry speech of a politician. Some children, who are not taught to think of others and/or how to argue in a civilized manner, act this way. If they reach adulthood without guidance, the rest of us must suffer their performances.

  11. Lucrezia Said:

    Over and above a rude and insensitive audience, lies the ability of a speaker to command. The crowd isn’t entirely to blame when Mr./Ms. Squeaky is unable to summon the power to force silence and subsequent attention.

    Remember past teachers and profs? Some would enter the room, and despite all manner of yelling, desk pounding and threats, chaos would prevail. Then a dead silence fell at the appearance of others.

    Nothing really changes — only the cast of characters.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I wonder if the mic was loud enough–which may have been part of the problem. The first marketer was an excellent, confident speaker–funny even. That didn’t matter though.

    Now that you mention it, two teachers stick out in my mind. They hardly had to speak and we all jumped-to. While this kind of presence works with students and employees, the technique doesn’t always work with guests. And as Nancy suggested in an earlier comment, an open bar can have its impact and here, wine flowed.

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