Snigdha Sanyal (name changed) was a deserving candidate for the features writer vacancy at a business daily in Delhi. Though her skills at ideating and writing were much appreciated, she soon realised that the reason for her transfer to a back-end position involving editing and proofreading was her communication skills.
"I came straight from a town near Kolkata, and believed in living simply. I never realised that to survive in a competitive city like Delhi required me to look and communicate smartly," she shares. Sanyal's is not an isolated case — many young professionals like her make up the numbers running our call centres and factories across the country. Today, as global barriers are shrinking, self-awareness and grooming are not just important for front-end professionals, but also for back-end workers, who underestimate their potential most of the time, making this a concern for organisations.
Sushil Baveja, head-corporate HR, DSCL, says that since this is a time for 'impact and impression', they run two dedicated programmes on them. "One of them is for executives who are moving up the ladder and will soon be leaders and our face to the outside world," he says.
Gaurav Prakash, a senior analyst programmer at an insurance firm in the NCR, seconds this opinion. A self-driven, polished guy, he has seen many people failing on the basis of their etiquette and grooming. "Lack of elegance can prove to be a silent killer. Though your core skills is what gets you the job, your appearance and conduct decide benefits such as proximity to the boss, foreign assignments and promotions and eventually leadership roles. We see it all the time in our offices," he adds. The areas under corporate etiquette range from appropriateness of clothes, accessories and fragrance — depending where and with whom you are — to the first handshake and courtesies you show.
"Etiquette has become exceptionally important in this globalised era, where your boss may be an expatriate and very well groomed. This especially applies to people coming from the country's small pockets who want to work in high-paced metropolises," says Sheena Agarwal, director of Urbanista Image Consulting.
The focus, therefore, is on personal hygiene, skin care, make-up, hair care, hairstyle, poise, posture, walk, manners, voice modulation, as well as uniforms. "The issue also leads to other concerns such as diet plans, customised workouts, yoga, meditation, etc," says leading image and grooming consultant, Yatan Ahluwalia, who has a string of clients across industry sectors, thanks to the demand. And if there’s a rising demand, so is the supply.
Soon to conduct a seminar on the topic, Professor Deepa Sethi, Assistant Professor, Managerial Communication and Soft Skills, IIM-Kozhikode, believes the guiding principle is, "there is no impression without an expression."
"Professional etiquette is not just for employability, but also for an individual's working image among his peers, subordinates and seniors. The youth today need to mind their slang and be cross-cultural in their conduct, helping others blend in with them," she underlines. As experts say in unison, it's time we welcome good manners with a firm handshake.