Why has Coronavirus caused a loss of manners?

I am no longer a person. I am not a human being. I am a robot. An automaton. At least that’s what many of my clients and their managers think. It must be, because during the coronavirus pandemic they seem to have lost their manners. No ‘please’. No ‘thank you’. Just ‘I want’, ‘I want’ and ‘I want it now’.

The reality however is significantly different. I am a living, breathing, real life human being. With feelings and emotions. I have bust a gut during lockdown and beyond to make sure that we don’t let our clients down when they have really needed us. A little bit of appreciation along the way wouldn’t have gone a miss. If we ever were really ‘all in this together’, it certainly didn’t last very long.

As always there are exceptions and some of our clients remain lovely to work with. I thanked a client recently for saying thank you. He must have thought I was nuts, but it was such a rare occurrence that I felt the need to appreciate his appreciation (and his manners). It costs nothing to say thank you, but it means so much to the person you are saying thank you too, especially if it is genuinely meant. Another client rang me recently to see how I was, because he was aware that the only time he got in touch was when he needed something and he felt it was time he rang just to see how his ‘partner' was. Because that’s what we are, an HR Partner, and I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all our clients who have shown faith in us by asking us to help and guide them through this really strange event that has lasted since 23 March 2020. It is good to be needed. It is equally good to be appreciated.

Is the lack of appreciation because I’m a woman? I was beginning to think that before lockdown and I am even more convinced of that since this pandemic has shown that the people it has had the worse impact on is women. We are traditionally the carers and that is not seen as valuable, evidenced by the poor pay of the magnificent people that work in care homes. Here in my business, when my Business Manager, who doubles as our HR Admin support, produces a set of terms for a new starter, he gets an email saying thank you. I keep clients out of court, avoid litigation for them and save them a fortune in legal fees, and that is just taken for granted. It must be because I am a woman and therefore our role is to support others, without much in the way of recognition.

I have recently supported a client throughout a redundancy process, which was quite complicated. We needed to produce the final notice letters, which were scheduled for the day we were officially giving notice. My client asked me to do the letters early because he was going on holiday and he wanted to get them out. I was scheduled not to be in the office that afternoon, but I rearranged my plans so that I didn’t let him down. It would have been so nice for him just to send a quick email saying thank you as he knew I was not supposed to be in the office that afternoon, but he didn’t. I appreciate he was busy but as I said earlier, a quick email of thanks takes seconds, but means so much to the person on the other end.

I was talking to my marketing partner about this and she was telling me about a client of hers who left an angry message on her phone while she was on holiday, which he knew, saying that a piece of work hadn’t been done and he was not happy. She broke off from her holiday to investigate as she felt sure the work had been completed, and lo and behold, it had. It was sitting in his portal waiting for him to approve it so it could be sent. He hadn’t even bothered to look. When she rang him to tell him about that, he didn’t even have the good grace to apologise. Is that because she is female or is he just someone who is downright rude?

Another client of mine calls it the Amazon effect. Because we can get everything now, we expect everything now. No-one experiences the excitement of waiting for something to arrive any more. Gratification is instant and if we don’t get instant gratification we are angry. Because Amazon is not a person, there is no need for anyone to say please or thank you. The internet doesn’t appreciate a thank you. But the people on the other end do: the warehouse staff, the delivery drivers, and the rest of us who provide a service to others really appreciate being appreciated. Professional advice and support is not a product; it is not a commodity. It takes time and often complex problem solving is required to deal with the issue that we have been asked to advise on. It is important that people remember the difference – because those of us who provide a service, at whatever level, are all living, breathing human beings. With feelings.