Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners

Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners, is a well received and acknowledged book on mannerism. Published in Jan 2012.

I came across a very interesting interview in Sunday Times of India's supplement today. Henry Alford was interviewed on the mannerism, the way he interprets it.

Its not etiquette or protocol but a way to respect others by doing, saying, asking, responding that shall make them feel comfortable, not something that makes only me comfortable.

Interesting example that Henry quotes is as below-
“No individual should congratulate a woman on her pregnancy until that woman has announced that she is indeed pregnant.” I’ve seen how the gaffe of doing otherwise causes mortified silences all around.

Another good example: A compliment to a woman, he writes, “should be a single sunflower set on a windowsill for her to walk up to and admire, not three dozen roses delivered by an exhausted-looking bike messenger in an angel costume.”

Some new words got its place in Modern Dictionary, due to lack of mannerisms, that we see today, an example:
Modern Dictionary has a word called "pizzled". Explained like,
The feeling you get when someone whips out their Blackberry aka crackberry or cell phone and begins having a conversation with someone. It's a cross between pissed off and puzzled.

In some of my interviews with MNCs and large Indian IT Services companies, I have seen sincere lack of mannerisms.
I had fourth round of interview (face to face) with Head of HR at Wipro Technologies at Bangalore in 2011. Interview started well in time. Coordination was excellent.
Interviewer welcomes with professionalism and starts interview with questions around my studies, world wars, etc. I was there for HR Engagement Manager role interview.
During my 45 mins of interview the interviewer got 7 intermittent calls (4 on his cell phone and 3 on his desk number). Some as long as 3 to 4 mins. He spoke about his teenage daughters shows, land availability for purchase in Bangalore. His recent travel to Kerala and his brother-in-law. He took all the calls and spoke to all callers with ease and did not ask my permission for taking calls or even after he finished his calls, did not apologize. I was so uncomfortable and pizzled that I had no option but to look at his walls, same old posters, tube lights, paper weight, color of his cabinet and anywhere except him talking. Serious lack of mannerism and huge breach of professional ethics. I forgot his name, but he sits on diagonally opposite office at Wipro , Sarjahpur 1, at Bangalore, where my SIBM MBA college senior sits.
I always thought of writing about this sad interview experience to Wipro group Head HR, Pratik Kumar, but now is the time, I guess.

In Jan 2013, I had face to face interview with Adobe for Bangalore location position of Campus Lead-India.
My first meeting that day was with Punith Suvarna, Head of TA, India. Very polished and cultured interviewer and professional. Good experience meeting him. Great attitude and adult to adult interview. Very unlike many non-trained and non-aligned and un-cultured interviewers at MNCs, who believe that all candidates who come for an interview need a job, and so would be ready to be laid!
Unfortunate thing happened when Punith asked me to meet her report, a Manager and she was someone I remembered when I read Henry's interview.
I was waiting at the reception to meet her. And this was between the time, I met Punith and her.
She came to the small reception area, talking on her cell phone, when she noticed that only I was the waiting person there. She kept walking the space leisurely and casually and remained glued to phone and worse was the part that she was loudly bragging someone about some company's HR person. It was embarrassing to see her and listen to her phone brags.I had no choice but had I read Henry earlier, I would have rather apologized to her that I heard her phone talks and I did not mean that. That is what Henry would call passive mannerism. If she had a phone call, she should have taken it later of should have finished it in her office before walking in to reception area, where anyone could listen to her call and more importantly, a senior candidate waiting would really not like someone, who he is going to be interviewed by behaving so rude and casual. She did not stop talking and went to the interview office, on reception bay and opened the door. Ended her call and came back to me. This was all happening in an area as small as 10 ft by 10 ft., being watched by a security boy and an oblivious receptionist.

Manners can be taught and learnt. It is a culture thing but you cannot train a pig how to whistle, as they say in training domain.
Hope, sense prevails!



  1. Mrinal,

    Good observation and equally good presentation of your experiences.This kind of attitude is quite common and people take it for granted it is there right to behave in such a manner.


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