Business Etiquette Between Manager and Employee


Your Business Blogger is noticing a most disturbing trend with business clients. The younger employees do not, it appears, render proper subservience and groveling to their elder-better bosses. This disturbs my sense of order and entitlement.

Is good old fashioned boot-licking dead?


Cubicle Farm As I traverse cubicle farms across the fruited plain, I see entry-level drones toiling away. Plowing as straight a furrow as any dependable farm hand. Yet these hayseeds have yet to learn manners.

In the US of A the worker bees would continue typing and clicking away when the Boss and Your Observant Consultant would wander by and stand at the cube threshold. The employee’s eyes would remain on the monitor — ears open to the boss — listening, we were told, to the manager’s every instruction. The young employee would call this “multi-tasking.”

I call it rude.


On site in India I compare this ‘dis’ trend to the contrast of the warm glow Your Business Blogger would routinely feel when consulting in India. Whenever the business owner enters a room. All work would cease. All would stand.

Then the boss would magnanimously, graciously invite the employees to be seated and resume their work.

Of course, no one moved. Until the owner left the room.

(There’s a lot to be said for the kiss up, kick down management style of the sub-continent.)

In India the employees would stand up. In North America the employees don’t even look up.

The US Army, as usual, gets it right when dealing with rank:

The senior never thinks of it.

The junior never forgets it.

Whenever soldiers would cross paths, the junior would acknowledge the senior. If one is an officer the junior will salute the senior. And the senior will return the courtesy.

The private businesses who never had employees who were privates in the Army, think and behave as if everyone is equal.


There is far too much of this egalitarian nonsense in our culture. Much of it comes from the academy, where most nonsense originates.

At the University of Virginia where Charmaine earned her doctorate, the instructors are addressed as Mister. Not Doctor. Mr. Jefferson was a fan of fraternite and Voltaire and all things French.

Egalite run amuck.

But the manager and the ambitious young man, understanding the spirit of the times, knows that nothing changes in the human spirit. We all want to be appreciated. Even the boss.

So the young future leader desiring to be a stand out, will stand up when the boss enters.

The young man will stand up when a lady enters the room.

The employee with integrity will take a stand.

Be a stand up guy.

And everyone will accuse you of apple-polishing.

But you will soon fill those boots everyone thought you were a-licking.


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Thank you (foot)notes:

Susan Ward has Test Your Knowledge With the Business Etiquette Quiz.


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5 Responses

  1. Mr. Y – sir – yes sir,sir, yes sir…etc…sir…. 🙂

    I love this post and the reason why is because it matches my ethic. When I was in grad school it annoyed me beyond belief that the pupils ran the program and the teachers “licked boots”. When I was doing my final exit -aka-Kiss up project – prior to leaving they asked me what needed to change. I told them that they needed to have the student respect their authority and that they needed to address the professors by their titles and not first names…thus it should be even in the workplace.

    And I should say that those young men shall stand, open doors and wait on the women when asked…well, at least that is how my husband treats me. Nice guy, my husband…and very cute…and handsome and brilliant too….

    I digress….all that to say that you’re absolutely right Mr. Y. 🙂 Have a nice evening.

  2. Pat Patterson says:

    I might take an opposing position on this issue as I find the egalitariansim of the discussed workplaces refreshing. Plus I might ask which group is more productive? Some of the offices I have seen where the boss gets undivided attention are the result of the employees jumping up to distract the boss before they can hide their last Halo score.

  3. jack yoest says:

    Pat, yes, your analysis is certainly the common-conventional wisdom.

    And — like a matrix management organization with very, very bright people, McKinsey Consulting, Academia, and any software company I ran — your strategy will work.

    But not the usual workplace. And yes, you are also right about distracting the boss — the most common adjective for ‘politics’ is ‘office.’

    In most offices the dreaded/hated pyramid org chart will still work.

    Thanks for your comment

  4. anonomyous engineer says:

    I’m not big into ‘yes sir’s or standing, but deferential treatment is essential in the nuts and bolts of business. My boss often does not get his due respect in meetings and it floors me. I will rarely disagree with my boss in meetings, but will bring up my concerns afterwards. I think it is this united front that is more important than ritualistic respect. And in my time in grad school, everyone referred to prof as Dr.

  5. Jerome Alexander says:

    Several years ago I wrote a book on the subject of workplace culture and employee morale. It is as relevant today as it was then. Employee morale is directly linked to the interaction of employees with line managers who are charged with executing the policies and strategies of companies. Unfortunately, many of these managers subvert the good intentions of the organization to meet their own personal goals and agendas at the expense of their peers and subordinates. This management subculture is a result of a corporate culture of ignorance, indifference and excuse. Better corporate level leadership is the key. Read more in “160 Degrees of Deviation: The Case for the Corporate Cynic.”