Social skills

I was thinking hard about the title for this post. Everything from Email Etiquette to Soft Skills popped in my head. And then I realise, this is nothing but basic social skills I want to write about.

We seem to have lost good manners and courtesy replacing it with brusque arrogance and  sexism, chauvinism and all the bad ‘isms’ you can think about. Many have been the times when I have cringed for writing a thought-less mail as opposed to a thoughtless mail. Redundant lines, meaningless and half-baked sentences and whatever else should not be was there in the mails I used to write. Having graduated from Wren & Martin’s proper letter writing to corporate writing where being casual was de rigeur took me some getting used to. And in the process I picked up several bad habits and one of them was not having a salutation to an email. A reply ALL or reply To got me the subject line and all I did was key in my response.

Till the day my Editor called me in and walked me through some of the basics in Email communication. She was an ‘American, ‘ which is saying a lot, but this lady was also a propah Brit who dotted her i and crossed her T.

Till date, I follow her discipline as much as I can, and whenever I come across mails without salutations and lines like ‘feed us back’ or unwanted articles I cringe.

Emails or normal mails aside, there are common courtesies we fail to follow. Butting in when someone talks (most men consider this to be assertive behaviour), sexist remarks, personal comments on somebody’s sense of dressing or fuzz on the face, sloppy eating habits, bad breath, body odor, conversing on the mobile loud enough for all the world to know when you won a lottery or got dumped, foul language F&&* is no longer abusive and neither is B#@#$# , since when may I ask. Would people be willing to use the native equivalents of these words and others without getting thulped for it? And I don’t blame guys here because I know of several ladies who think it is cool to call someone a B%$#. Since when?

Please do write in about what turns you off? Social skills is just that- common communication skills that encompasses civilised behaviour, courtesy and good behaviour.


  • Good manners to start with a salutation and end with a greeting. Doesn’t have to be a Dear Sir/Madam, a Hi XX or Dear Mr/Ms YY will do, just as a Best regards or a Thanks and Regards will suffice
  • Read the mail before responding and definitely read your responses more than a few times before hitting the Send button. You don’t want to have to resend a mail because you failed to address the Issue that the mail sought clarification on
  • KISS again. Always Keep It Simple
  • You do not have to pepper your responses with Please and Kindly but using it once or twice if warranted won’t harm you
  • Do not write sentences which do not convey anything or fail to convey your full thoughts/ideas like “putting together” – What was being put together or Will revert, wouldn’t “We Will Revert” be better
  • End the mail with a simple greeting instead of abruptly writing your name


Since we spend more than half our waking hours at work it is understandable that we develop close bonds with colleagues, some may be friends for life and some work chums. Whatever it is, whether you are bonding with your boss, your subordinate or your peers remember to follow some basic etiquette

Keep your professional and personal life clearly demarcated. So while it is ok to have a rowdy night out with pals, drinking or chatting up till wee hours of the morning-DO NOT let it affect your work or your professional appearance. IT IS NOT ok to tell your boss you were out getting sloshed all night so you should be pardoned for looking like the harem rat

If you do not get along well with your colleague you DO NOT need to make a public proclamation of it. Remember he/she may end up doing your peer review or worse get promoted and boss you

Networking and socialising is an accepted norm in most companies these days but you DO NOT need to discuss it in detail when you have a meeting called to discuss a crisis meeting with the client 🙂

If you are dating someone from within your department YOU DO not (again) need to make a public proclamation of it. No matter how progressive a set up is overt PDA is still frowned upon and the situation should never get to a level of discomfort for colleagues and HR summoning you for a chat

Guys, this one’s for you. Singing songs is ok but singing songs with names of colleagues in it IS NOT nor is lewd jokes. Some places this can even be construed as harrasment. Ditto for asking female colleagues out incessantly. All this comes under the purview of harassment. And I shall not even get into sending lewd mails, sexist comments, snide remarks on physical appearance, double innuendos, etc.

Ladies, this one’s for you. Yes we know that THAT time of the month is painful But YOU do not need to make a production of it. Yes impending motherhood is a great feeling and it is commendable that you have decided to work till possibly the last but one day of labor, AGAIN, do not make a production of it

Always cultivate a professional attitude that starts with your mindset, behaviour and goes outwards

IT IS NOT ok to read someone else’s mails and check someone else’s message box to see who that person has been getting mails from, whether the boss is trying to pull a fast one on you or whatever else it is you are trying to find out

It is NOT ok to open chat windows and scroll down the box to see the thread of conversation or do Ctrl F3  to find out chat history

Remember all this again, comes under the purview of Harassment and Unprofessional conduct. Sure there may be companies that turn a blind eye to such behaviour BUT remember not every corporate set up is the same.

Bottom Line: Do Unto Others What you Would Want Done To You


It is not enough to have a professional conduct alone even self grooming is important. It doesn’t take too much of an effort to be presentable. A quick brush down, ironed outfit, trimmed nails/moustache, clean shoes and hankies isn’t asking for much.

I remember a former colleague, who was one of the most suave people I have come across. Always well-turned out and by this I do not mean branded shirts and designer belts. Whatever he wore he did with finesse. Well ironed clothes – whether formal or casual, clean shaven, pleasant smelling and a smile. I have come across several guys of the same ilk, so much so that even while traveling they always appeared to have a fresh, clean look which is more than I can say for some other folks I have come across. Whether they were trying to be rebellious or plain lazy is beyond me. But wearing floaters when one has skin disorders or shorts when one has hairy legs is way beyond my understanding.

Ditto for the ladies. You do not need to be gaudily made up but no harm in applying the basic kajal and a dash of lipstick or chap stick. And You do not need to be geared in western formals to get your professional look. I still remember interacting with current ICICI head Chanda Kocchar long before her meteoric rise. She is one of the most graceful yet powerful head honchos I have met. Smiling, yet firm she represents what an Indian woman can do if she wills. And have you ever caught Ms Kochar in western formals. You will be hard-pressed to see her don anything but sarees. So irrespective of what outfit you chose to wear, being presentable is the key. DO NOT look like you just walked out of bed. It might be chic in college but certainly not in a corporate set up. All you need to do is spare five minutes and that is all it takes to iron your outfit and run a comb through your hair if doing anything else is too much for you.

And please do not ever dress down. I remember having this interesting conversation with a young colleague quite recently. I was surprised to catch this otherwise smart looking girl look like yesterday’s cream cake one fine morning. And when I quizzed her on the change in appearance, her response: “Arrey, what do I do? Everyone around me looks the same so even if I wear a jeans and formal top I feel overdressed.”

Understandable again. BUT remember what we started this conversation with. Be presentable even if it is T-shirt and Jeans. Just becaues everyone looks like they don’t care doesn’t mean you Do too. Remember the next promotion or job offer may be around the corner and you do not want to carry your bad habits from one set up to the other. Organisations are happier to hire presentable folks than those who look like they sleeped in their outfit. If you care enough about yourself, you are sure to care about the work you do- that is the simple logic.

Do write in with all the things I am sure I have missed, or things you may want to add or disagree with.

Till next time, then. Cheers 🙂


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