A stickler for proper etiquette | Remembering Joyce Sinclair
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The late Joyce Sinclair (file photo)
The late Joyce Sinclair (file photo)

By Wendella Davidson

AS a former educator, author and management and training consultant, the late Joyce Sinclair lived her life believing in two popular quotes: “No matter who you are or what you do, your manners will have a direct impact on your social development and social success.”- Anonymous and “Don’t reserve your best behaviour for special occasions. You can’t have two sets of manners, two social codes: one for those you admire and want to impress, another for those whom you consider unimportant. You must consider the same to all people,” Lilian Eichler Watson. She is known to have worked tirelessly to ensure that the citizens of Guyana, in particular employees in the public and private sectors, were `par excellence’ in efficiency and etiquette.

Joyce Sinclair (file photo)

Sinclair’s efforts in imparting invaluable knowledge saw her as the recipient of countless accolades, including the Golden Arrow of Achievement (A.A) in 1993, for her contribution to education and public service. She was also among 12 women who in 1989 were bestowed with `Outstanding Women’s Award’ by the Women’s Studies Unit of the University of Guyana. She received a special commemorative plaque by the CARICOM Secretariat in 1995 for her contribution to Caribbean integration through her laudable concern for the Welfare and development of the secretariat’s staff and in 2003, as one of YWCA’s “Women of Distinction.”

Among the persons who benefitted from her sessions were employees of the Ministry of the Public Service, as well as private sector organisations such CARICOM and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Sinclair, 84, died on June 20, 2020 at Lot 231 Lance Gibbs Street, Queenstown residence she shared with a sister. She was cremated on June 24 and a memorial service is expected to be held at a later date.

All of the people who benefitted one way or the other from Sinclair’s training sessions and with whom the Pepperpot Magazine interacted, spoke highly of her and the invaluable knowledge she imparted. Among these were:

Elise Benfield,former training manager, Public Service Ministry (PSM): “Ms. Sinclair was an exceptional person. Her professional ethics caused her to have zero tolerance for imperfection in the delivery of one’s work and appearance in both the Public Service and the public sector. Hence, this led to her insistence on continued education and training of young people.

One of my most vivid encounters with her occurred a few years ago after I had completed an interview on church business. Ms. Sinclair promptly called to express her concern on the pronunciation of the word violence. That was her, you couldn’t skip a beat when it came to proper pronunciation and crossing the Is and dotting the Ts. I will go as far as to credit my own professional upliftment within the PSM to Ms. Sinclair. She will surely be missed; may her soul rest in peace and her legacy lives on.”

Dawn Adrianne Cush, Public Sector employee: “I knew the Sinclair family for many years. I worked with Noel Sinclair, a diplomat, a gentleman and a scholar at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I met Joyce Sinclair at the Public Service Ministry. One look at her and you knew she was a Bishop’s girl; always well dressed and [she] spoke quietly, but you understood every word. Her standards were very high and she was highly respected. After she retired, I met her socially and it was always a pleasure to talk with her about social issues and the decline of standards in Guyana. She was one of Guyana’s finest, though she may have been disappointed with the fallen standards. May her soul rest in peace.”

Beverley Gomes Lovell – Public Health Specialist, Diplomatic Mission, recalled being trained by Ms. Sinclair many years ago. She noted that to this day, everything she was taught resonated with her, adding that many aspects resounded, including the importance of telephone etiquette and work decorum.

Lovell remembers pellucidly where Sinclair emphasised “the importance to display proper manners when communicating on the telephone, whereby you should exude a proper tone of voice, especially with business calls, word choices, listening skills and how to end the call et cetera. To this day, I practise exactly that.”

On the issue of workplace decorum, Gomes-Lovell said “it was taught that it creates a professional and mutually respectful atmosphere which encourages better workplace manners and creates a better culture. This certainly prepared me to operate in different workplaces. Over time, I concluded that while office etiquette is something I simply expect others to have, it is a quality that should be taught to employees. I am ever appreciative to Ms. Sinclair for teaching me how I should be a professional at work,” she added.
Meanwhile, a letter-writer responding to an April, 2011 letter written by Sinclair, in which she bemoaned the lack of etiquette by all and sundry, issued a call for the re-introduction of the popular 1940s `Card of Etiquette,’ which contained a list of `To Dos” such as’ “Speak quietly, for quiet speech is a sign of refinement.” The card was reportedly prominently displayed on the wall of almost every home and was memorised by all.

Her life
The late Sinclair began schooling at Smith’s Church Congregational Primary School and subsequently moved to Ray High School, where she remained until the Fourth Form, before moving to the Bishop’s High School where she undertook Fourth and Fifth Form studies. She later earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh, USA; a post-graduate certificate in Education from the University of Hull, England, and a Bachelor’s Degree General in Arts from the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, along with a post-graduate Certificate in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Western Ontario- Canada.

Sinclair subsequently started teaching at St. Joseph High School and Bishop’s High School before becoming Chief Training Officer in the Public Service Ministry of Guyana. Later, she was appointed Permanent Secretary in the Public Service Ministry (PSM), a position she held for nine years.

Upon leaving the Public Service, she served as programme manager and human resource manager at the CARICOM Secretariat, then subsequently privately as a management consultant with the said organisation. She was also the assistant resident representative (Operations) at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The numerous workshops conducted covered topics on Human Resource, Strategic and Stress Management, Organisation Development, Customer Care, Supervisory Management, Team-Building, Communication, Telephone Courtesy, Report Writing for commercial banks, large department stores, airline companies, private sector organisations, and international organisations, large and small private sector businesses, ministries and other government agencies and departments.

Sinclair has three monographs to her name: Receptive Courtesies published in 1996 for the public and private sectors; Courtesy Tips for  Children and Young People (2006) and High-Quality  Customer  Service for  Polishing Your Telephone Manners (2008). The latter publication was penned because Sinclair said she was appalled at the lack of courtesy which exists in the service industry.

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