Like many of us, I was taught the Golden Rule as a child: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
And when it comes down it, professional courtesy is just as simple as using the Golden Rule at work. Do unto your co-workers as you would have them do unto you. But stop and ask yourself, "How often does that happen in my office?"
Sure, it's easy to blame technology for the decline of professional courtesy -- after all, hasn't our tweeting, posting, texting, and emailing taken away from our ability to, for example, talk to each other?
But more than that, there's been a moral lapse in today's workplace in which treating business associates with courtesy and respect is no longer regarded as critically important. As we're all required to do more with less, have we simply run out of time for workplace pleasantries?
At a time when displays of good manners seem to be on the decline in all parts of society, my biggest fear is -- does anyone even notice any more?
When I was younger, not returning a phone call, in any situation, was unforgivable. Of course, that was before the majority of our workdays were ruled by Outlook calendars, smartphones, and out-of-control email. The time earmarked today for email management was once spent bonding with co-workers -- becoming a stronger team by actually talking and listening to each other.
More than "please" and "thank you," professional courtesy has always been defined by the way we teach, learn, listen, and respond.
The bottom line: If your team is lacking professional courtesy, it's probably also lacking the creative, analytical and communication skills necessary to make your organization the best it can be.