Elbows off the table, don’t talk with food in your mouth, don’t spit on the floor. Level one, but then level 20 might be, don’t stand up to leave until everyone has eaten, don’t interrupt others, don’t say “every time” and “never,” don’t always defend yourself when you are given feedback.
As a parent, I try to teach my kids manners, as I was taught by my parents, and I always saw this through a moral lens, like “You ought to do this, because it is right.”
More and more now as a parent I see it differently, that manners are not just “it is right” but they make it easier for me to produce what I am out to produce. Kids mostly don’t produce anything on a vacation. My wife and I pack, I drive, we make sure they get three meals, somewhere to sleep, somewhere to go to the restroom.
Mostly their job is to do nothing. But if they employ their best manners, it makes our jobs easier: I don’t have to attend to their fighting with each other, with their whining about what they don’t like about what's already decided. If they use manners, they become one less thing to “deal with” in a world of all the things which which there are to Deal.
I think that is true in organizations. If you are the CEO, you want healthy debate, but not backstabbing and in-fighting. You want straight assessments among the team but not gossip. You want what supports the vision, and you want everyone rowing the same direction, but as human beings you know your people are going to have different ideas of what oars to use, what stroke to use and even which way to row.
Manners make all that dissension more tolerable. You don’t want to do away with it, to have compliance without dissent, but you want the dissent to be about the idea or the project, not about the people. Manners have a way of keeping people cordial and related, while all the while being free to discuss their dissenting view.
As Alexander Hamilton said after roasting Aaron Burr in a letter, I have the honor to be your obedient servant, A. Ham.