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Manners matter at work

Good manners never go out of style.

It doesn't matter if you're vying for a job, aiming for a promotion or simply trying to get along with co-workers. You'll never go wrong by being the best-behaved, most-polite person in the mix.

Good manners aren't just using the right fork at a business lunch -- although that's a point in your favor. (Indeed, there are consultants who provide remedial training for people who didn't learn what to do with their napkins or their elbows.)

Many a job interview includes subtle observation of manners. Was your small talk appropriate? Did you flush any anger from your voice? Did you interrupt or listen well?

Worse, did you drink too much at the restaurant? Did you talk too loudly?

Or did you fail to send a thank you note after the interviews?

Sometimes, job applicants are hypersensitive about manners. But, as we all know, the stress of daily business sometimes sends good manners on vacation in the workplace.

There are exceptions, but you'll usually find that the people who control their tempers, who talk nicely to others and who observe generally accepted standards of good behavior are the ones who advance in their jobs and are good leaders.

The basic rule of human relationships is that people like being around other people who make them feel good. Outright flattery only goes so far. What lasts and forms solid bonds is mutual respect.

And how is that displayed? Through good manners.

Most people can cite examples of boorish bullies who have gotten ahead despite a lack of civility. That happens.

But this is a networked world. Interpersonal relationships can be more important than technical skills or smarts in opening doors for jobs or promotions. Just think what's said about rude people behind their backs or online.

So don't get hung up on what etiquette mavens say is the right fork. The details are good to know, but more important is the way you interact with everyone.