Is Being Polite Good for Business?

Polite in business

At a local mall during the holidays, I asked an employee for ketchup to go with my fries.

“It’s my pleasure,” she responded, handing me the ketchup. How polite!

My pleasure?  Taken aback, I couldn’t help but say an emphatic thank you, a faint smile crossing my face.

I later discovered that Chick-fil-A actually trains its employees to be polite.

In a 2016 study published by fast food industry magazine QSR, Chick-fil-A employees ranked first in the categories of smiling, saying please, and saying thank you (

And this politeness has helped the food chain produce revenue of almost $4 million per store, more than $1.3 million over its closest competition, even with its policy of being closed on Sundays.

Politeness as a Business Strategy

It’s one thing in the service industry, but does being polite pay off in other aspects of business?  Well, it depends. Gregory Hamel, in his Chron article, “How Being Polite in the Workplace Helps,” says that being polite helps make a good first impression, can help diffuse workplace arguments, and can help with networking.

Hamel argues that saying please and thank you can benefit relationships with other people and being polite can help diffuse coworker arguments.  Since the core of most business is building relationships (especially in sales/ customer services), these simple courtesies can benefit the bottom line.

And politeness should go beyond the words please and thank you. The definition of polite is: having or showing behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people (Google Dictionary).  It also includes things like eye contact, staying off of a cell phone around other people, refraining from using curse words, standing up when someone comes into a room, table manners, and even things like responding to emails in a timely manner.

But Can Being Polite Hurt Business?

Some argue that being too polite can harm a business.  Michael Cho, founder of Crew says, “If you’re too polite in your decisions, your team won’t create something great.  You’ll be afraid to say when a product stinks. You’ll be scared to disagree with a company process” (Inc—“Why Being Polite is Killing Your Company”).

He feels that discourse, however impolite, is a key part of moving forward.  If too polite, Cho states, “You’ll say ‘yes’ to things that aren’t good enough.”  Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, agrees.  Catmull says in regards to critiquing work at Pixar, “Nobody pulls any punches to be polite.”

Therefore, being polite has its role as long as it doesn’t inhibit the necessity of being honest (even brutally).

The Role of Politeness Interviewing

There is a definite role for etiquette for job seekers and hiring managers during the interview process.  Sometimes little things make a big difference.  Here are a few specific ways we at Artemis Consultants have witnessed politeness:

-Use polite and respectful body language.

-Take note of the correct pronunciation of an interviewer’s name and take note of the names of everyone present at the interview.  Also use these names in any follow up correspondence.

-Pay attention to things such as starting correspondence with something simple like “Hi Robert,” or remembering something personal from a prior conversation.

-Make sure social media presence is appropriate.

-Whether you’re extending an offer or being declined, be polite.

-Be punctual and never complain about past employers or employees.

At Artemis Consultants, we can help you use politeness to your advantage while maintaining the respect you deserve.  If you’re seeking a new career challenge or need help finding qualified candidates, visit us at – PLEASE.

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