Campus News

Courtesy is Good Business (and Good Manners)

Story posted April 06, 2001

Used to be that mothers taught their children to say "please" and "thank you" as well as other things generally known as "manners." But it's obvious to anyone who has dealt with a rude clerk, angry coworker, impatient teacher or inconsiderate student or read stories of road rage, air rage and other kinds of rages all the rage now, that manners don't always seem to be a priority in modern society.

Now Bowdoin graduate is setting out to correct that. Inspired by her work as a corporate trainer, Karen (Edwards) Hinds 93 has published "Get Along, Get Ahead: 101 Courtesies for the New Workplace."

Hinds speaks with the lilt of a Caribbean accent; she is from St. Vincent, and said that in her book and in her seminars she tries to combine the Caribbean hospitality and warmth with British style. She reminds readers of some practices that should be common sense, such as the aforementioned "please" and "thank you," and also provides guidelines for courtesies involving faxes, conference calls, and the Internet.

After graduating from Bowdoin, Hinds returned to the Caribbean on a Watson Fellowship, and then began work in Boston. For Umass-Boston's Urban Scholars program, she assisted in the professional development of teachers that were running academic summer programs for promising high school students. Hinds also worked with the Private Industry Council to train high school students to become job-ready. She trained them in understanding the corporate environment, and also trained supervisors in working with a diverse workforce. Hinds enjoyed the training so much that decided to form her own company. She often trains people in "life transition" situations, such as those on Welfare returning to work, or others who have not worked for some reason and are returning to the workplace.

Hinds had always wanted to write a book by the time she was 30, and she hit upon the topic when reflecting on the many complaints she heard from workers and managers. Many of the complaints stemmed from inconsiderate behavior.

She thought, "Why not put together a book that was simple to read but full of business-changing, life-changing things." Hinds wanted the individual tips to stand on their own so the book would be something people could read straight through or refer to for inspiration.

Courtesy is important, Hinds says, because it affects every aspect of one's life.

"People skills will help determine how far you go in life, not your degree," she said. "I like to think of this as teaching people how to turn politeness into profit," she said.

Among evidence she gives for the importance of courtesy:
* Workplace rudeness costs companies millions annually and
* Your health is adversely affected when you work with negative, discourteous people.

Hinds began working on the book in January of 2000. She knew that the length of time established publishers would take to get the book onto the shelves would prevent her from meeting her "by the age of 30" goal, so she took matters into her own hands.

"I couldn't handle the rejection, and I couldn't wait for a publisher to make a decision," she said.

Like many Bowdoin graduates, Hinds is working in different field from that of her major (political science), but she credits her time at Bowdoin for preparing her to follow her dreams.

"The whole premise of a liberal arts education has worked for me. What Bowdoin taught me was to write, think critically and be open minded." This grounding in basic skills gave her the courage to be an entrepreneur, even without a business degree, Hinds said.

Her book has taken her on another path of entrepreneurship. Without a large publishing company behind her, she has arranged for all of the book distribution and publicity. The book is available on Amazon.com, Borders.com and Boston bookstores. She kicked of the publication with book signings in the Caribbean, where the book is also sold. Since then, she's been featured on radio and television programs, interviewed for a newsletter and done a booksigning in Boston. Hinds also writes a column for a St. Vincent newspaper and will soon have an article in trade magazine.

Now she is also working on her second book, "A Teenager's Guide to the Workplace," which she hopes to have completed this summer.

She advises Bowdoin students to "know that it takes a lot of courage and a lot of faith to open a business or even follow your dreams."

More information about Karen is available on her Web site: www.Karenspeaks.com

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