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Rude HR Pros Give the Whole Field a Bad Image

September 29, 2002
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Your attitude is going to get you in troublesomeday.

    That was my mother’s favorite line when I was growing up, and more oftenthan not, my attitude got me in trouble right then and there. But hey, I was 12,and going through those fascinating hormonal changes that all adolescents havethe pleasure of experiencing. I like to think that I have grown out of theantagonistic, eye-rolling phase of juveniles and matured into a responsibleadult who respects and appreciates others. This doesn’t seem to be so unusualan ambition. So why is it that I often feel like the only one in the worldattempting to accomplish this?

   Acts of rude behavior and lack of common courtesy seem to increase everyyear. From people who refuse to use turn signals when they are driving to peoplewho play their car stereos extremely loud (thanks, but I listen to my ownmusic), and from people who don’t hold the door for others who are walkingright behind them to people who walk in front of others without saying “excuseme,” I feel bombarded with rude behavior wherever I go. The cashiers at thelocal grocery store are rude; the people in my office building are rude; thecustomer-service agents at my health-insurance company are rude.

   I’ve even experienced rude behavior and lack of manners from people in HR.

   When I was looking for a job two years ago, I sent out about 50 résumés tolocal and national employers. I received a total of four acknowledgments that myrésumé had been received. Four out of 50 is a pretty poor percentage ofresponses. I wasn’t expecting that they would all send back handwrittenletters that gushed over my qualifications and begged me to come work for them,but a form letter or even one of those prepaid postcards with the standard spielacknowledging the fact that I had sent my résumé would have been nice.

   I was taught to send thank-you notes and personal letters to people as a wayto acknowledge a gift or kind thought, and every career coach out there willtell you to send a handwritten thank-you note after an interview. Why does itseem that this courtesy cannot be reciprocated by HR? Is it too much to ask thatthey acknowledge my résumé and desire for employment with a prewrittenpostcard? As it was, I didn’t even get that 46 out of 50 times.

   When I called employers to follow up, the people I spoke to often sounded putout that their busy day had been interrupted by my call (I will not mention thattaking my phone call was part of their job) and shocked that I had the audacityto contact them when they had clearly not cared enough to contact me. These verypeople who are a first contact for many potential employees, and who many wouldthink should act with at least a bit of professionalism, were in fact the veryembodiment of rudeness. I realize that not all HR professionals act this way,but those who do give the rest a bad name.

   What is going on? Whatever happened to common courtesy? Whatever happened toemployees (especially those in customer-service positions) treating customers asif they matter? Whatever happened to people caring about one another? Thesequestions haunt me every time I witness rude behavior. Unfortunately, this trendcontinues to grow, and I am beginning to see it in younger people every day.

   I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard a teenager say “whatever”in response to a request (as in, “Molly, can you vacuum the living room today?”“Whatever.”). What can be done to address this problem? Is this just atraining issue for HR professionals to handle once these rude people become rudeemployees? Is it an educational-system issue? Is it a parental issue? Is it aHollywood celebrity-syndrome issue? (Imagine pop princess Britney Spearsflipping off photographers in Mexico.)

   In my opinion, it must be a community issue. We all have to care that thisrude and obnoxious behavior is occurring, and then make a commitment to changeit. Without widespread concern and acknowledgment that this kind of behavior isunacceptable, I foresee no end to rampant rudeness.

   I may not have wanted to admit it when I was 12, but I think my mom wasright. It is all about attitude. A kind and courteous attitude can do wondersfor you and those around you; a bad one can have just as pervasive an impact,although with completely different results.

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