Politeness in the globalised workplace

More than just a matter of etiquette, politeness empowers individuals to work better together, regardless of their background.


Upon hearing the word ‘politeness’, many people think of the etiquette of a civil society, while others may associate politeness with respect, formality and similar notions. Irrespective of its actual definition, politeness seems to be a key aspect of business life, which is simply essential for an individual or a team to succeed. This essential characteristic of politeness is evidenced by the frustration that one feels in a rude workplace, not to mention the anger of customers or business partners when a service provider acts rudely: appropriate behaviour is so much an expected part of our daily lives that we tend to notice its absence rather than presence. While using internet search engines is not a scientific approach to describe this phenomenon, results produced by the comparative online search of ‘polite’ versus ‘impolite’ notions speak for themselves. For example, a search for “rude service” versus “polite service” in the popular engine Google Fight resulted at the time of writing this article in 21,300,000 versus 8,700,000 hits, indicating that, a topic of discussion, “rude service” is nearly three times as popular as its polite equivalent.

Dániel Z. Kádár

Dániel Z. Kádár is professor of English language and linguistics and director of the Centre for Intercultural Politeness Research at the University of Huddersfield, UK. He has written and edited 18 books and several articles. His recent works include Understanding Politeness (with Michael Haugh, Cambridge University Press, 2013) and Relational Rituals and Communication (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Dániel is also engaged in teaching in the field of intercultural communication and provides consultancy in areas related with politeness and communication in general.