If putting back the chair after a meeting is any indication of courtesy and respect, then I would say that the most courteous and respectful students who ever visited me in my office are Lyceum of the Philippines (Calamba), Malayan Colleges (Cabuyao), and Letran College (Calamba) students. One hundred percent (100%) of students from these schools who graced my office with their visits (mostly for permission to do research in our university) put back their chairs after I have met with them in the conference room.
I did this social experiment for a period of six (6) months last year. Students from other schools in and around Cabuyao City visited me at the Office of the President for various reasons, but mostly for research. Prior to this experiment, I noticed that students and teachers (not only from our university) were in the habit of not putting back the chairs after I have met with them, or after they have used the conference room. With this, I decided to embark on this rather loose social experiment.
Literature has little to say about “putting back chairs after the meeting is over” as one of the signs of good manners. Meeting etiquettes have always revolved around coming to meeting on time, keeping the mobile phones on silent mode, listening courteously during meetings, and using polite words when speaking during the meeting. While all of these are generally observed and encouraged, I pushed the matter (manners, rather) further. When the meeting is over, one has to put back the chair or push back the chair. That, to me, spells the difference between someone who has observed all the codes of behavior during and after meetings and someone who has yet to familiarize himself with conference room etiquettes or as others call it, meeting manners.
In all my meetings with these students, I was in constant mode – manner of talking, level of joviality, time allotted for the meeting, and the contents of the discussion. When the meeting was over, I would be the first one to stand to thank them for the visit and to wish them luck on their research. I would leave the room first to allow them time and space to leave the conference room by themselves. After they have left, I would come back right away to check the chairs.
It was a funny experience I did for myself. I just wanted to find out which among the schools have the most courteous student-visitors in our university. And as the results show – Lyceum, Malayan, and Letran students were courteous and respectful – all putting back the chairs and leaving the room tidy. I came back to the conference room after their visits with a smile on my face and a gratitude for their schools – for how they were raised by their teachers and administrators.
Other schools did not fare well. Like one college (a popular school) had all students not putting back their chairs. They came. They talked. And they left. Leaving the room with chairs in disarray. I was dismayed since I have always regarded their school with high respect. But the students’ manners betrayed me.
This study, of course, is not conclusive. More of just an observation, this aims to raise awareness among students that their behavior, in or outside of meetings, will always reflect on their school. Somehow, the quality of their meeting behavior is a reflection of the quality of their school education. Especially nowadays when there has been a growing concern on building good character among our students and forming their values while they are still in school. Studies have been showing us that industry employers are giving more weight on the soft skills than on the hard skills. A Harvard study showed that 85% of the success of professional people are accounted to their soft skills.
I could not agree any less. Who would want the services of an engineer who is competent but without integrity? Who would want to work with a topnotch accountant but with abrasive behavior? And who would want to hire a teacher that lacks respect for her students and fellow teachers?
As I have always been taught and told – character is more important than competence.
About the author: Dr. Albert D. Madrigal is the university president of Pamantasan ng Cabuyao (PnC) in Laguna. PnC is a local university offering programs in accounting, nursing, teaching, engineering, and computing.